With '21 in books, Texas has 'a lot to improve'

October 4th, 2021

ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Chris Woodward knew this season wasn’t going to be easy. He knew they weren’t likely to compete for the American League West title or a playoff spot.

But that didn’t make it any easier, Woodward said. The long season came to an end Sunday afternoon at Globe Life Field, as the Rangers fell, 6-0, to Cleveland in the finale to finish 2021 with a 60-102 record, the second worst in club history.

The Rangers also endured an AL-high 15 shutouts, which are also the most for Texas in a single season since 1983.

“I mean it's kind of fitting,” Woodward said of the loss to cap off the season. “We couldn't really get much going in the beginning. … The overall season, it is what it is. We fought to the end. Obviously it didn't go our way, we didn't win many games, but obviously there’s a lot to improve. Every guy in that locker room has something to reflect on and know what they did well, know what they didn't. We have to get better as a team and we all know that.”

Woodward pointed to the walks given up by Texas' pitching staff and other little mistakes that gave the game to Cleveland, which had a three-run third inning and a two-run fifth to break it open. The young Rangers were also held to four hits by starter Aaron Civale and the Indians' bullpen.

Rangers rookie got his final start of the season in the loss. He tossed three innings, allowing four runs on five hits with three strikeouts. Dunning, who was the main return in the Lance Lynn trade with the White Sox on Dec. 8, finished his first full big league career with a 4.51 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 117 2/3 innings.

Woodward said Dunning met his expectations for his first season, but Dunning said he wasn’t satisfied with his season overall, especially with his last few outings.

They’re both hoping the 26-year-old right-hander can build off this year and be a vital part of the Rangers' rotation down the road.

“​​I love [his] makeup, love the stuff,” Woodward said. “There's plenty of games that he threw earlier in the year where we were kind of limiting him at times, but he could have gone on a couple more innings. He's excited about pushing the innings next year and taking the handcuffs off a little bit. Overall, he finished the season strong, healthy. I know it wasn't the outing that he wanted to end it, but I'm excited about him coming in next year.”

The one bright spot for the Rangers after a long season was the return of to the mound.

Bush was part of Texas’ Opening Day roster after missing 2019 with Tommy John surgery and having his comeback attempt halted by COVID in '20. He only appeared in three games in April, allowing three runs in three innings before injuring his right elbow again.

“It was pretty cool to see,” Woodward said. “Everybody in that clubhouse knows the importance of that. And what that means to a player like Matt, who's been through quite a bit in his career. It was a pretty good comeback story to start the year. We felt his comeback story was cool, just the resiliency and the grit to say, ‘No, I want to pitch one more time.’ We obviously made it happen.”

Bush tossed a perfect sixth inning with a strikeout in his return. The 35-year-old said he has no plans to retire and hopes to return to the Rangers’ bullpen next year.

“I just wanted to go out and have fun today, that’s all it really is,” Bush said. “It’s the sense of like, 'I don't know how much longer I can do it, so let's just go out there, give it my all and have fun each and every time, because you never know when it's gonna be the last.'”