HOUSTON -- Rangers manager Chris Woodward mentioned after Saturday's game that he was leaning toward gathering his team for a quick meeting at some point to remind the players that during these not-so-fun times, it's important to stay together as a group.
The meeting ended up not taking place the next morning, prior to the series finale with the Astros at Minute Maid Park. But after the Rangers' 5-3 loss that completed the sweep by their intrastate rivals, the visiting clubhouse was closed for 30 minutes, during which time Woodward finally held that pre-planned get-together.
Woodward said he spoke for a bit, but mostly, he let his players do the talking.
"This is the moment when, from a cultural standpoint, teams go one way or the other," Woodward said. "It's either inward or outward. I've been on a lot of teams where it goes outward. Guys just kind of said, 'OK, season's over, let's fight for ourselves.' This group is too good to let it happen. But I'd like us to come even more inward, to keep us strong."
The Rangers don't need a miracle to get back into postseason contention. They need wins. To accomplish this, the key, ironically, might be to stop trying so hard. That was one of the messages that came from a couple of people who spoke during the team meeting, including a vocal Elvis Andrus, who reminded his teammates to embrace the difficulties.
"Personally I'm going through a little slump offensively, but it doesn't define me as a hitter," Andrus said. "I still want an RBI situation with the game on the line. You have to be positive and always believe in yourself, regardless if you do good or bad.
"You can be mad, you can be in a slump, but you never want to show that emotion, that frustration, to the other team -- ever."
Woodward acknowledged the hitters are pressing. The stats back up the theory. Texas hitters struck out 13 times on Sunday and 41 over the course of the series, bringing their season total to a Major League-leading 1,007 strikeouts.
It's easy to implore a young hitter to stop trying so hard. It's not so easy to implement that during a game.
"When you know you're in a big spot and you try to take on all that baggage of losing six in a row, you start to feel that," Woodward said. "That's where I think our team just needs to kind of come together."
Even with all of the team's ongoing offensive issues, the Rangers' chances looked somewhat promising heading into this game. Lance Lynn, who dominated the Astros over a seven-inning, 11-strikeout performance in the first game after the All-Star break, was given the role of stopper, and, for his part, he delivered.
Lynn managed to tame the Astros’ vaunted offense, again. He tied his career high with 12 strikeouts over seven innings, and at one point, he fanned 10 of 12, a string that began soon after he yielded a two-run homer to Michael Brantley with one out in the first.
Yordan Alvarez followed with a base hit, but Lynn then fanned five in a row. He struck out the side in the second and fourth innings.
"Lance -- 10 strikeouts through four innings?" Woodward said. "He gave everything he had. He's been a warrior the whole time and our guys were fighting like heck to try to get him a win today."
Lynn found no comfort from pitching well while his team struggled.
"We lost," he said. "Every time I take the mound, it's with the intent to win. If it wasn't, I wouldn't go out there."
Ten days are left until the July 31 Trade Deadline, but for those directly responsible for what transpires on the field, the focus is less on what the front office might do and more on putting a forgettable week behind them. That was the gist of Sunday’s postgame meeting.
“It was kind of refreshing,” Andrus said. “The message was keep our heads up, stay positive. They beat us in this series -- so be it. Have a short memory, turn the page and be ready for the next series.”
MRI for Kelley
Right-handed reliever Shawn Kelley threw several warmup pitches in the eighth inning but left after feeling soreness in his right biceps tendon. He’ll undergo further evaluation, which likely includes an MRI.
Kelley returned to the dugout without throwing an official pitch against the Astros and threw his glove (left-handed) into the dugout in frustration.
“We’re going to find out more about that,” Woodward said. “He's going to get an MRI hopefully soon. I have my fingers crossed that it's not as bad as we think.”