In that regard, the Rangers deserve an A for effort but a failing grade in judgment after an 8-1 loss to Ervin Santana and the Twins on Tuesday night. Both Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Gomez were thrown out trying to advance on pitches in the dirt at critical moments when the game was still in doubt.
"It's a situation where our offense hasn't been scoring runs," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "We know we have a guy on the mound who has been hot, throwing the ball extremely well. Being aggressive on the basepaths is warranted in those situations. We haven't been scoring many runs, so guys are trying to get into scoring position."
Choo led off the bottom of the first with a walk and moved to second on Gomez's bunt. That brought up Nomar Mazara, who fell behind 0-2 in the count. The next pitch was low and got away from catcher Jason Castro, prompting Choo to break for third. But the ball hit the shin guard of home plate umpire Chad Fairchild and stuck right there within Castro's reach. Choo was thrown out easily.
"I saw the ball went under the catcher's glove, and I thought, from my angle, that the ball was past him, but for some reason the ball was close to him," Choo said. "I checked the video, and it hit the umpire's legs, so the ball stayed. We're always working on the 'dirt balls' all Spring Training, and in the season we try to continue getting better, but there's always risk."
Gomez discovered that as well in the fourth inning when, with the Rangers trailing 1-0, he reached on a leadoff walk. Santana, on another 0-2 pitch to Mazara, bounced one in the dirt. Gomez broke immediately, but Castro blocked the ball well and recovered quickly. Gomez was thrown out by a wide margin.
"That's what we work on, ball in the dirt, but the catcher made a good play," Gomez said. "He found the ball quickly. It's a risky play to take a chance, but we work to get good at it. The catcher got the ball quickly. Most catchers have a hard time making that throw, but he found it and made an accurate throw."
The Rangers were unable to manufacture any runs. They managed just five hits and their only run came on Joey Gallo's home run. They are hitting .183 with 20 runs scored in their past eight games, including .167 with runners in scoring position.
"The bottom line is until we get consistent up and down the lineup, we've got to find ways to try and spark these guys," Banister said. "I still stand by this as a quality group of hitters, and we are going to get this thing going in a positive direction."