ARLINGTON -- The Rangers gave themselves a chance to win Tuesday night after a strong start from Jordan Lyles and a resurging offensive performance, holding a two-run lead going into the eighth inning against Giants, currently sporting the best record in the National League.
But the bullpen was unable to stop San Francisco’s hitters in the last two innings as Texas fell 9-4 at Globe Life Field.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys that are learning right now,” said manager Chris Woodward. “They’ve pitched well at times and they've had to probably pitch in bigger roles than we would like them to at times. But it's learning, they've got to learn from it.”
Every Rangers reliever that pitched against the Giants had between one and four years of service time.
Joely Rodríguez gave up a single and two walks to start the eighth inning before Josh Sborz relieved him with the bases loaded. Giants nine-hole hitter Mike Tauchman -- who was 0-for-3 before the at-bat -- then drove a go-ahead grand slam over the right-field wall.
The Giants tacked onto their lead in the ninth with a three-run homer from Brandon Crawford -- his second dinger of the night -- off of Rangers lefty Taylor Hearn.
Woodward emphasized that the walks were the biggest issue for the Rangers' staff Tuesday night. Of the six walks issued, three of them scored while the other three were stranded in scoring position.
Rangers closer Ian Kennedy was unavailable due to right hamstring tightness, forcing Woodward to manage the bullpen a little differently with the lead in the eighth. He still felt the struggles could be attributed to lack of experience at the big league level, more so than fatigue.
While the Rangers’ bullpen has been far from flawless this season, the young pitchers have often avoided blowing big blunders. So Woodward was confident in their ability to get a shutdown inning at that point.
Lyles said he told them it is part of experiencing the growing pains in the big leagues.
“I think we kind of expected there to be a little bit. I wouldn't say regression, but a come down to earth moment in some of the cases,” Woodward said. “But you’ve got to get them through it.”
Though Lyles exited his second game in a row in position to win, he took a no-decision in a quality start once again. He had a season-high pitch count of 100, allowing just two runs (one earned) in six innings. He’s become one of the Rangers’ more reliable starters over the past month.
Both Woodward and Lyles said Lyles was able to execute pitches well throughout the game.
After Sunday’s loss to the Rays, Woodward insisted the squad needed to be better, point blank. They need to be more aggressive at the plate, take better at-bats, and be tougher all around.
The bats seemed to have taken that to heart and kept the team in position to win for most of the game. The offense started hot with shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa grinding out a 13-pitch at-bat to start the game. He went 3-for-4 at the plate and was the only Texas hitter with multiple hits on the night.
Twice early in the game, when the Giants scored, Texas immediately responded, once with a game-tying solo home run from Joey Gallo and again with a three-run sixth inning to take the lead. The Rangers squandered run-scoring opportunities later in the sixth and again in the seventh inning, but hitters stepped up more so than they did during the last series against the Rays.
“Overall, the at-bat quality was better,” Woodward said. “I feel like they just collectively as a group, one after another, have a decent plan. There were a few innings like the sixth and seventh that come back to haunt you when you don’t extend the lead there, but overall I was pleased with our offense for sure.”