Rangers rookie right-hander Kyle Cody was not happy with his fastball command on Tuesday night against the Astros.
Cody threw 74 pitches in three innings, allowed six of 14 batters to reach base on four hits and two walks and allowed his first Major League home run to George Springer to lead off the first inning.
But that was the only run allowed by Cody and manager Chris Woodward didn’t mind seeing his young starter face some adversity, even if it came in a 4-1 loss to the Astros at Minute Maid Park.
“I don’t want him to struggle, but he hadn’t had much adversity up to this point as a Major Leaguer,” Woodward said. “He threw a ton of pitches. Obviously, we don’t want him to throw 70-something pitches in three innings, but it’s a good learning experience for him. He had to grind a little bit today, which is something that he hadn’t had to do in previous outings.”
This was Cody’s third start and sixth overall appearance since being called up from the alternate training site. He walked seven over 9 2/3 innings in his previous outings but allowed just one earned run on five hits with 11 strikeouts. This time, he struck out just one batter.
“First thing, I’ve got to command my fastball better,” Cody said. “That was a very obvious thing for me to improve on. Everything starts with the fastball for me, and being able to command it is a very huge thing. And that goes a long with my performance, but overall, I feel like I just battled my butt off tonight “
The fastball got him in the first inning. Cody was ahead 1-2 on Springer and tried to throw a 95 mile per hour fastball by him. Springer crushed it to left-center field with a 111.9 mph exit velocity and a Statcast-estimated distance of 455 feet.
Undeterred, Cody came back to retire Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman to get out of the inning.
“The home run to start the game … wanted to see if that would snowball a little bit,” Woodward said. “But he dialed it back in and got three outs.”
More trouble arose in the second inning, when the Astros loaded the bases with nobody out on singles from Kyle Tucker and Yuli Gurriel and a walk to Carlos Correa. That prompted a visit to the mound from pitching coach Julio Rangel.
“I just told him that I got to get the ball down and get a ground ball and get myself out of this or find a way to manage the situation,” Cody said. “Because bases loaded, nobody out, that can turn into three or four runs pretty quick. In those moments, I just tried to slow the heart rate down a little bit and calm down and just focus on making one pitch at a time.”
Cody escaped without allowing a run. Josh Reddick hit a grounder back to the mound and Cody threw home -- “Calmly,” said Woodward -- to start a double play. Martín Maldonado then popped up to end the inning.
Cody also gave up a two-out double to Brantley in the third and walked Bregman. Again, he got out of the inning by getting Tucker on a lineout to center field.
That was the end of his night. Cody has two more potential starts before the end of the season, and the Rangers want to see him finish strong. They also need him to finish healthy. Cody missed two full seasons while recovering from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, and this is the first time he has pitched above Class A.
“I feel good,” Cody said. “I did feel a bit winded toward the end, especially when [I got] runners on base and [threw] 20-plus pitches an inning. You’re going to feel winded after those innings. I did that tonight with those three long innings. When I can get my pitch counts down, that’s one of my main focuses. Get those quicker innings, and I feel I will be a little more well-rested going into those next starts.”