Rangers drop back-to-back games in extras

Four key developments from back-and-forth thriller vs. Orioles

July 6th, 2022

BALTIMORE -- For the second straight night, the Rangers found themselves on the short end of a wild back-and-forth affair that went to extra innings in the Charm City. On Tuesday, a day after losing on a walk-off hit-by-pitch for the first time in 20 years, Texas endured a 10-9 defeat to the Orioles in 10 innings that featured four lead changes and five homers, all hit in the seventh inning or later. 

“That’s kind of the summary of our season,” manager Chris Woodward said. “We’ve have a lot of ups and downs and tough ones like that, because we play a lot of close games … it’s gut-wrenching.” 

The latest loss dropped the Rangers to 4-16 in one-run games on a long, humid night at Camden Yards. Here were four key developments from it:

Seager comes up clutch 
The Rangers have been waiting for Corey Seager to really heat up, and now that might be happening. Seager punctuated his second straight multihit game with his biggest swing yet as a Ranger, launching a go-ahead two-run home run in the ninth off Félix Bautista to briefly give Texas its only lead of the night. 

Seager’s first go-ahead homer in the seventh inning or later for Texas was vintage Seager. Ahead 2-0 in the count after Marcus Semien legged out an infield single, Seager zeroed in on a 100 mph Bautista fastball down in the zone, but with plenty of plate. Seager made Bautista pay, using a compact two-handed swing to rocket it 105.6 mph and 405 feet on a line over the right-center-field wall.

“Seags is going to keep coming,” Woodward said. “I know that about him. No matter how good or bad he is, he keeps coming at you. He’s not scared of anybody. That’s the swing that I’ve seen a lot.” 

The Rangers, still, are hoping to see more of it. Seager is now hitting .236 with 16 homers and a .733 OPS through his first 77 games with the club, after signing a 10-year, $325 million contract on December 1.

Howard’s return
Before the game became a back-and-forth affair, the focus was on starter Spencer Howard, who allowed four runs in four innings in his first big league start since April 10. The 25-year-old allowed six hits, walked two and struck out two, with all the damage against him coming in Baltimore’s four-run second. The Rangers relegated struggling lefty Taylor Hearn on June 26 to clear a rotation spot for Howard, the main return in the Kyle Gibson trade with Philadelphia last July 30.

Howard has struggled historically in the Majors, with a 7.32 ERA in 23 career starts.

“Some pitchers actually pitch really well at Triple-A and then come here and things speed up a little bit,” Woodward said. “With Spencer, the big question is: ‘Is he executing? Or is he just chucking it up there and just overpowering Triple-A hitters?’ We need to truly have an evaluation process. Can [what he’s doing] play at this level? Then there is the psychological aspect. When he gets here, does that change? That’s probably my biggest question about him. When he comes up here, why do things change for him?”

Barlow’s blues
After Seager’s homer, the Orioles fought back on Rougned Odor’s game-tying homer off Joe Barlow in the ninth and Cedric Mullins’ walk-off double off Matt Moore in the 10th. The blown save was the second straight for Barlow, who converted his first nine save chances this season but has now blown four of his past eight. 

Odor’s game-tying blast was Barlow’s fourth homer allowed in 28 1/3 innings this season -- twice the number he surrendered in his brilliant 29-inning debut last season.

“He’s got to be better,” Woodward said. “He’s got to be sharper. We know how good Odor hits hanging breaking balls. To throw that over the middle of the plate, he has to know better. Being a closer is about every pitch. You can’t let up on any pitch.” 

Might Barlow’s struggles prompt a change in the closer’s role? The Rangers’ bullpen has been a strength, so they have options. But it was notable how maybe their two other most dependable relievers, Dennis Santana (three runs in two-thirds of an inning) and Moore (one unearned run in two-thirds of an inning) also struggled Tuesday.

Heim’s bobbling grab
Jonah Heim had to feel more involved behind the plate than he did Monday, when he entered as a defensive replacement but didn’t receive a single pitch as the Orioles quickly walked off against Moore in the 10th. On Tuesday, the Rangers tasked Moore with the 10th once again, to similar results. But not before Heim’s juggling, sliding catch of Robinson Chirinos’ foul bunt attempt provided an important out -- and a highlight.