Tensions flare as Rangers can't snap skid

July 25th, 2021

HOUSTON -- The Lone Star Series is nothing if not interesting, and Sunday afternoon’s series finale between the Rangers and Astros was no different, even as Texas dropped its 12th straight game in a row, 3-1, at Minute Maid Park.

The two teams exchanged zeros until the fifth inning, all things seemingly normal. But a called strike three outside of the zone on veteran infielder Brock Holt, who was leading off the inning, caused tensions to flare.

“[Dang it], Tim, call balls -- balls,” Holt said on a hot mic while remaining in the batter’s box after the call. Home-plate umpire Tim Timmons proceeded to eject both Holt and manager Chris Woodward, who sprinted from the dugout, clearly frustrated by the call as he argued with Timmons.

This was Woodward’s sixth career ejection as manager and his second of this season. He said that while he’s not one to critique umpires, he felt that some of the calls behind the plate were flat out wrong.  

“We worked really hard today as an offense to try not to swing out of the zone against [Astros starter Zack Greinke],” Woodward said. “He's really good at manipulating pitches to make them look like strikes. I thought we were doing a good job of taking some of those, [but we were] getting strikes called against us -- that frustrates me. I know we're not hitting the ball great right now, I'm not using that as an excuse, but those were balls. That's all I could say.”

Woodward was issued a warning by Timmons the previous inning, when David Dahl was called out on strikes on a ball down and outside. Woodward said he knows umpires are humans and are allowed to make mistakes, but he wanted to let Timmons know how he felt about the call.

Holt asked Dahl before heading into the fifth inning if the called strike was a ball. When Dahl said yes, Holt responded: “OK, I'll say something to him.” 

“He was just messing around, then he got tossed,” Dahl explained. “He came [back] like, ‘I told you, I'd say something.’ Seeing that kind of emotion kind of got everyone fired up, for sure. It got us going a little bit but we just couldn't win it in the end.”

Dahl added that it’s frustrating on both ends when the hitter thinks they're putting in good work at the plate, only to have the umpire think otherwise.  

“Those guys back there have a hard job, though,” Dahl said. “It's tough with what guys are throwing these days. It's also tough when calls go against you. ... Nothing's really breaking our way. It's definitely tough, I won't lie.” 

Immediately after the two ejections, Eli White knocked a 2-0 fastball into the Crawford Boxes in left field at 368 feet, per Statcast, to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. That lead snapped the club’s streak of consecutive innings without a lead at 99. It was the longest such streak since the Houston Colt .45s had a streak of 102 in 1963.

But the Astros punched back almost immediately. After three no-hit innings from Rangers starter Taylor Hearn, Houston infielder Abraham Toro hit a two-run homer off reliever Dennis Santana in the bottom half of the frame.

Woodward felt the Rangers had opportunities to jump out to an early lead and later to bounce back but weren’t able to cash in. Texas was 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.  

Dahl added that he thinks there’s a little bit of pressing going on from top to bottom as the Rangers look to snap their 12-game losing streak.  

“I think we're all struggling as a group,” Dahl explained. “Each guy wants to do so well and break out of it that you start putting a little more pressure on yourself, trying to get hits instead of letting everything come to you. I do that, too. It's just a matter of relaxing and really having fun out there. It's hard to have fun when you're losing, but we’ve got to have fun again.”