Woodward: 'We've got to show more fight'

July 19th, 2021

On Friday, before his team embarked on the second half with a .389 win percentage (third-lowest in franchise history), Rangers manager Chris Woodward spoke of the opportunity that lay ahead for his club.

“There’s still a lot of baseball to be played, so that’s probably the most exciting for me,” Woodward said. “... Obviously, we have to finish strong. A lot of these guys, their future depends on it, honestly. The way we’re going to make decisions after this year, we’re going to look to see who fits our future plans.”

Following a 10-0 loss to the Blue Jays in Game 2 of a straight doubleheader -- resulting in a three-game sweep in which Texas was outscored 25-2 and trailed for all but two innings -- Woodward eyed another opportunity: to see how his group responds.

“I want to see, when we’re up 10-0 or down 10-0 -- especially down 10-0 -- who’s hanging their head and who continues to fight,” the skipper said Sunday. “Listen, I want guys to be frustrated. I don’t want guys to be happy or content, or just saying, ‘Whatever. It is what it is.’ I don’t want that.

“I want to see a little bit of frustration. But you’ve got to have some emotional maturity about you and continue to fight. And I want to see who’s going to do that.”

After dropping Friday’s opener 5-2, the Rangers fell 5-0 in Game 1 and gave up a 10-spot in Game 2 at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, N.Y. That marked the first time Texas has been shut out on both ends of a doubleheader since the franchise was located in Washington. It happened to the Senators once in 1969 and once in ‘71.

The frustration and disappointment likely peaked during the opening innings of the Game 2 loss, in which allowed a career-high 10 runs in 1 2/3 innings. The kicker is that all the damage came with two outs.

In the first, Foltynewicz retired two of the first three Toronto hitters, but George Springer kept the inning alive on a bloop single to center field that had a .110 expected batting average. A pair of RBI hits followed, before a would-be strike three call worked against Foltynewicz and he walked Cavan Biggio to load the bases. The next batter, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., hit a knife-twisting grand slam to make it a six-run frame.

“I’m not going to make an excuse for one pitch,” Woodward said of the missed strike call. “You’ve got to go back out and make another pitch. You don’t have to walk the guy after.”

Foltynewicz, who wasn’t made available after the game, got two quick outs to start the second, but then his problems with the long ball persisted. He dealt first-pitch homers to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Springer in succession, and Randal Grichuk took him deep two batters after that. Foltynewicz has allowed 28 home runs this year, the most in the Majors. As a team, the Rangers coughed up 10 home runs in just 20 innings this series.

An early 10-run deficit in the finale was quite the crater for Texas to try to emerge from, especially given how the offense struggled this series. The Rangers scored just two runs over 23 innings, batting 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position in that span.

Woodward felt his hitters were passive at times, taking too many first-pitch fastballs and falling behind. When they did generate a scoring chance -- such as Joey Gallo’s leadoff triple in the second inning of Game 1 and Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s leadoff double in Game 2 -- they lacked the execution needed to cash in.

Despite all the home runs Toronto rained down upon Sahlen Field, an at-bat that stuck out to Woodward was Marcus Semien’s RBI groundout in Game 1. Semien worked a nine-pitch at-bat, fouling off five balls before putting something in play to score a runner.

That’s the type of effort Texas’ manager wants to see. It’s what he needs to see in order for the Rangers to get back in the win column.

“We’ve got to show more fight,” Woodward said. “… We’re watching with eyes wide open to see who’s got the grit and resiliency to just keep on fighting. And we’ll get through it. Hopefully we’ll go to Detroit and take it out on one of their guys. But today wasn’t too impressive at times.”