Rangers starter Kyle Gibson has been struggling to close out innings all season, and it cost him again on Thursday afternoon against the Angels.
Gibson allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings, and all scored with two outs in a 6-2 loss at Globe Life Park. The defeat ended the Rangers' two-game winning and kept them from sweeping the Angels for the second time this season.
Gibson’s two-out troubles showed up in the first, when Mike Trout singled and Anthony Rendon walked. Jared Walsh then hit a 2-1 changeup into the seats in right-center for a three-run home run. Gibson said it was the worst changeup of his 13 on the day.
“Two outs has been a nemesis all year, so it's something I'm going to dig into a lot,” Gibson said. “It's definitely not something where I am sitting out there saying, ‘Ok now ... I'm going to try really hard to get this third out.’ It could be as simple I’m not getting ahead of as many guys with two outs. But it's something I've definitely got to be better at.”
The Angels were 6-for-11 against Gibson with two outs, including a fourth-inning home run by Trout. Opponents are now hitting .343 (24-for-70) with six home runs with two outs against him this season.
“That's kind of been the tale of the season for Gibby right there, just not being able to finish some innings,” manager Chris Woodward said. “You can't ever take your foot off the gas, you've got to attack those guys in the middle especially. Sometimes it's lack of execution in certain spots, in certain counts. He's got to find a way to be able to execute those pitches in better locations.”
Gibson allowed five runs over 5 2/3 innings. He faced 28 batters, and 13 of them reached base on 10 hits and three walks. He struck out just three. Of the 22 balls in play, 11 had an exit velocity of 95 mph or better.
That’s a 50 percent clip, and coming into the game, Gibson's 41.7 percent hard-hit rate was above the league average of 37.1 percent. With just three strikeouts, his 18.4 strikeout rate is below the league average of 23.1. He ranks 81st among 109 pitchers with a minimum of 30 innings in percentage of plate appearances that end in a strikeout.
Gibson has always been a sinkerball pitcher with high ground-ball rates. The Rangers were hoping he could follow Lance Lynn’s lead of incorporating more high fastballs and get more swings and misses. Instead, his swing-and-miss percentage has dropped from 29.5 percent last season to 24 percent before Thursday’s outing.
“He has used [the high fastball], but he hasn’t been able to execute it,” Woodward said. “He has gone more to the two-seamer down. He’s got to execute it. Gibby didn’t do it early in the season, and he kind of shied away from it. We are trying to get him to understand how to use his stuff the best way possible. Attacking the strike zone is the key. When he does that, he gets the strikeouts.”
Gibson, who agreed to a three-year, $28 million contract before the 2020 season, is now 0-3 with an 8.10 ERA in his last five starts and 1-5 with a 6.14 ERA in nine starts this season. The Rangers are 1-8 in those games.
“It can definitely get at you,” Gibson said. “I have been in times where I have thrown a lot worse and had streaks that have been more frustrating than it has been now, which may be hard to believe. With two outs ... as bad as it has been in my mind, if I can make a few pitches with two outs here or there, it could have easily been six or seven innings with two runs and we are tied in the ninth. I’m trying to be realistic with myself and not be too down on myself even though I am my harshest critic."