ST. PETERSBURG -- A promising start to a three-game set vs. a likely playoff-bound club ended with yet another series loss for the Rangers.
Texas dropped Sunday afternoon’s contest to Tampa Bay, 5-3, at Tropicana Field, marking the ninth consecutive series the Rangers have lost or tied (0-6-3). A one-run lead in the top of the second was quickly erased in the bottom of the frame, and the Rays never relinquished their edge. Texas struck out 13 times and didn’t draw a walk.
“We know when we play [good teams such as Tampa Bay], that runs are going to be at a premium,” said interim manager Tony Beasley. “And so we’ve got to pitch better against teams like this and make sure that we take advantage of the runs that we score and make them count. It’s tough playing from behind against a team like this.”
Fresh face Josh Jung, the Rangers’ top prospect, continued to show he’s a bat to be reckoned with. The 24-year-old, playing in his 10th Major League game, went 2-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs. His solo shot in the second inning off Jeffrey Springs’ slider nearly scraped the catwalk at The Trop. He launched the ball at a 40-degree angle, and it eventually came down a Statcast-projected 367 feet from the plate into the left-center-field seats.
“I thought I hit it too high, to be honest,” Jung said. “I put a good swing on it. I’ve been trying to stay inside the baseball. I got the pitch and stayed inside of it.”
Jung has recorded a hit in eight of 10 games since being called up on Sept. 9. He said he’s starting to get more comfortable in a big league routine now that his feet are fully wet. When asked if he thinks pitchers are starting to make adjustments against him, he said, “Definitely a little bit. They’re going to make adjustments. I’m going to make adjustments. That’s just the game in general. So far, I think I’ve been doing OK.”
The one blemish on Jung’s start to his career has been his strikeout rate. Heading into Sunday’s game, it sat at 50 percent. That didn’t change on Sunday, as his other two plate appearances resulted in strikeouts.
“With Josh, it’s still a learning curve,” Beasley said. “I’ll take the two hits today and negate the strikeouts. He’s had good at-bats since he’s been up here. He’s seeing pitching that he hasn’t seen, and you’ve just got to be patient with him. …
“He continues to go up there and compete at the plate. As he goes along, he’ll definitely be better off for the things that he’s struggling with right now as far as strikeouts. He wants to do well and be a great player, and he’ll cut those down in time.”
Glenn Otto struggled as the starter for Texas, allowing four runs on seven hits -- two of them home runs -- in 3 1/3 innings. Otto had been solid for the Rangers coming in, holding opposing batters to a .191 average and carrying a 3.38 ERA in eight starts since Aug. 1.
“He just didn’t seem to have a good feel for his pitches today,” Beasley said. “Didn’t seem to have the same zest and finish on his fastball -- just the same life on his pitches -- that he’s had the last three or four times out. He struggled with that and struggled with command and made mistakes today.”
The rock-solid Brock Burke was in atypical form for Texas, walking two batters and allowing a run in the sixth, when the Rangers’ deficit was just 4-3. After two quick outs, the Rays strung together a single, a walk and an infield hit by pinch-hitter Wander Franco up the first-base line. Burke attempted to dive for the ball and tag Franco simultaneously but was unsuccessful. He then walked the next batter, Taylor Walls, with the bases loaded.
“That’s uncharacteristic of Brock,” Beasley said. “He’s been outstanding all year for us. That’s not what we’ve seen out of Brock, and that’s not who he is. I’m not sure [if] when he dove after the ball at first, it had some type of effect on him. We checked him, and he was fine. He seemed like he had a tough time finding the zone after that.”
The Rangers are off on Monday and will start a six-game homestand Tuesday against the Angels.