Lynn's strong start for naught in walk-off loss

August 5th, 2020

The Rangers knew the ninth inning could be a big challenge with right-handers José Leclerc and Rafael Montero on the injured list. and were given the challenge in the ninth inning on Tuesday night and it didn’t go well.

Vólquez loaded the bases on two walks and a single in the four batters he faced, then Chavez gave up a first-pitch grand slam to Stephen Piscotty that sent the Rangers to a 5-1 loss at the Oakland Coliseum.

The Rangers couldn’t take advantage of another excellent start by , who allowed just one run in 6 1/3 innings. The Rangers took a 1-0 lead into the seventh before Matt Chapman led off with a home run by hitting a 2-2 fastball over the right-field wall.

Chapman was 1-for-10 with six strikeouts against Lynn before jumping on that pitch. That snapped Lynn’s streak of 18 consecutive scoreless innings, tied for the second longest by a Rangers pitcher to start the season. Jon Matlack had 19 straight scoreless to start the 1980 season.

"He's swung through that pitch 12 times in his career,” Lynn said. ”He did his best to get on top of it and he got it to a spot where he could hit it out. A loss is going to hurt no matter what. I know Vólquez didn’t throw the ball the way he wanted to. That’s baseball. We were right in the thick of things and we didn’t get it done. They were able to get it done at the end.”

The ninth is the bigger concern for the Rangers. Right-handed setup reliever Jonathan Hernández kept it tied with 1 2/3 scoreless innings after taking over for Lynn. At that point he had thrown 20 pitches and manager Chris Woodward felt that was enough.

"I may consider using Jonathan in the ninth, but I had no intention of doing that tonight,” Woodard said. “That he threw 20 pitches allows me to use him again in this series. If he throws more, he's probably down the rest of the series. He's done a great job, but you also have to consider the number of ups. It would not have been fair."

So Woodward went with Vólquez in the ninth. Vólquez has been a starter for most of his career, but Woodward feels the 15-year veteran has enough stuff and plenty of experience to handle late-inning pressure. Vólquez had thrown three scoreless innings over three appearances without walking a batter before running into trouble in the ninth.

“I think this outing makes me open my eyes a little bit just to make sure when we get to that position,” Woodward said. “I still trust Vólquez. He’s been through a lot. I trust he’s going to throw the ball over the plate and execute pitches when we need it. Tonight was just maybe an off night for him.”

That it was, as Vólquez was missing “arm side,” meaning inside on right-handed hitters and away from left-handers.

“He just didn’t have command,” Woodward said. “You could see it in his first couple of pitches.”

Vólquez started off by walking Matt Olson on four pitches, and Chapman, after fouling off a pair of 2-2 pitches, lined a single to left.

Franklin Barreto pinch-ran for Olson and Vólquez walked Mark Canha to load the bases. Vólquez was able to get Robbie Grossman to pop out and Woodward brought in right-hander Chavez to face Piscotty.

Piscotty hit the first pitch over the center-field wall to end it.

"If Vólquez is in the game and throwing the ball over the plate, I would have let him try to get out of it,” Woodward said. “ When he is scattering it like that, we have to get somebody in there and make them earn it. Obviously with Chavez, you knew he was going to throw the ball over the plate. As far as Vólquez goes, I don’t think I’ve lost any trust in him, we just can’t walk guys in the ninth inning of a tie game.”