Hearn struggles as Rangers drop opener

September 18th, 2021

ARLINGTON -- Taylor Hearn has been one of the Rangers’ best pitchers, and more than likely their best starter, since the Trade Deadline. Through five appearances and three starts in August, he posted a 2.92 ERA.

But the young lefty ran into a speed bump on Friday night when he labored through 3 1/3 innings, allowing eight hits and seven runs -- both of which were career highs -- against the high-powered White Sox offense. The Rangers ultimately fell, 8-0, to Chicago in the series opener at Globe Life Field.

“Honestly, nothing really changed for me,” Hearn said of his outing. “The only thing I think was just different today is that I wasn't landing stuff, mainly offspeed. Then I was missing down and when I came back up, they were ready to hit it.”

Hearn struggled for the first time in a long time, and snapped a streak in which he won four consecutive starts. The seven runs were by far the most he’s given up in any outing this season.

Manager Chris Woodward and Hearn both noted that his stuff wasn’t as sharp in the loss as it had been within the last month.

“He wasn’t getting ahead of guys as much,” Woodward explained. “And he wasn’t able to finish them off with the four-seamer or get the easy ground ball out. The second and third innings were decent but in that fourth, it was like ball one out of the hand and getting behind guys. Once you do that with these guys, they can smell blood in the water.”

The White Sox scored one run in each of the first two innings, and continued to get to Hearn when he gave up a leadoff double before walking back-to-back batters in the top of the fourth inning. Luis Robert immediately followed with a bases-clearing double to extend Chicago’s lead to 5-0. José Abreu's subsequent RBI double then ended Hearn's night.

Hearn’s walk to Eloy Jiménez in the third inning was his first since the sixth inning against Cleveland on Aug. 24. He went 89 straight batters without allowing a walk before allowing three to Chicago.

The three free passes were one shy of a season high. Woodward said that the White Sox, who are usually a more aggressive team, came out a lot more patient against Hearn and didn’t chase as much as they expected.

“You saw a lot of those 3-2 pitches just at the bottom of the zone, guys like Eloy Jiménez that are typically free swingers, they actually boxed him up pretty well,” Woodward said. “They forced [Hearn] more into the strike zone. They did a good job. Taylor wasn’t as sharp as he has been, but maybe that had to do with the talent in the batter’s box.”

Over the course of the season, Hearn has deviated from being more of a strikeout pitcher to forcing guys to put the ball in play. He thinks his walk rate is down because he’s been pounding the zone hoping to get more soft contact.

But the White Sox, unlike the last few teams Hearn faced, got a lot of loud contact off him instead, as the lefty allowed six doubles, four of which had at least a 100 mph exit velocity. It was the most doubles off a Texas pitcher since Nick Martinez allowed six at Fenway Park in 2016.

“That’s just them being aggressive and me just missing over the middle of the plate,” Hearn said. “I missed out in the middle with the four-seam and sinker and just couldn't land the offspeed. That's the one thing about this game in the big leagues, like you miss over the middle, they're gonna obviously make you pay for it. They got a lot of loud contact for sure. They definitely made me bob-and-weave a couple times.”