HOUSTON -- The Rangers have been competitive in every game this season, win or lose, but that wasn’t the case on Friday night as Texas fell, 10-4, to the Astros at Minute Maid Park.
From the outset it became clear that Rangers starter Wes Benjamin was not commanding the strike zone. He walked Alex Bregman in the first before getting a fly ball to end the inning.
Things got out of control in the second, when Benjamin walked the first two batters and gave up three straight singles, allowing the Astros to score three runs over his 1 2/3 innings.
“It’s frustrating,” Benjamin said. “I thought I made pretty good pitches, but they kept fouling them off on me, and I started to waste a little bit too many and before I knew it, the pitch count was through the roof. I started to get a little too fine on the corners and eventually walking those two guys. Having that happen to any pitcher, that’ll start to spiral a little bit.”
Benjamin said there were some pitches at the corners that he felt would’ve been called strikes at Triple-A and he didn’t adjust well at the moment.
“I think it was me trying to strike out a team that doesn’t strike out a lot,” Benjamin said. “So I wasn’t saying necessarily giving anyone the benefit of the doubt. I was just trying to kind of play the corners a little bit too much, and that came back to bite me.”
Those three Rangers threw a combined 83 pitches through the first three frames. All three, especially Benjamin, were unable to finish off the Astros’ hitters, even with two strikes.
The Rangers have preached the importance of avoiding walks, which was a big struggle for the pitchers Friday. They walked eight Astros and struggled to find the strike zone in multiple at-bats.
Benjamin said he felt like the Astros were very disciplined at the plate and unlikely to chase outside of the zone. Once he got ahead in the counts, the Astros would foul off multiple pitches in the zone before watching one out of it and changing the makeup of the at-bat.
“These guys aren’t going to chase,” manager Chris Woodward said of the Astros. “They’re good hitters, but today we made them look like Hall of Famers. I felt like we got ahead of the guys we did walk, and just couldn't make a pitch. We were expecting them to chase the pitches that they're not going to chase.”
Woodward emphasized that the pitchers have to go right after the Astros’ hitters because of the way they command the strike zone. Executing pitches in the zone is going to be key to winning at least one of the remaining games in Houston this weekend.
“If you don’t attack these guys, they’re going to hurt you,” Woodward said. “We're gonna go right after them [these next two games]. I'm not shy about saying that all year.”
The Rangers didn’t have a bad offensive day, but their four runs paled in comparison. Two hitters -- Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Jose Trevino -- had multi-hit games, but Texas struggled to come up with runners in scoring position. Adolis García swatted his 10th home run -- a solo shot -- in the eighth.
Astros starter Zack Greinke struck out five in seven innings, and the Rangers weren’t able to take advantage when they had runners on base.
“I felt like we were just kind of on the cusp of kind of coming back against them,” Woodward said. “We let him off the hook. We just didn't do a good enough job consistently throughout the lineup to put enough pressure to score more than one run.”