Rangers takeaways: IKF, rotation, road trip

September 19th, 2021

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers capped off the final game of their homestand with a 7-2 loss to the White Sox at Globe Life Field Sunday afternoon.

Veteran pitchers and -- who appeared in his first game since coming off the COVID list -- gave up a combined seven runs after the starter Lyles was chased from the game in the fourth inning.

had two singles and two steals. His second single drove in for the Rangers’ first run of the day in the bottom of the fifth inning. The shortstop has hits in nine of his last 10 games, five of which were multi-hit efforts. After he walked in the eighth inning, he scored the Rangers’ other run off an sacrifice fly.

Texas finished the homestand, which opened with a four-game set against the Astros, 2-5.

Here are three takeaways as the Rangers head off to their final road trip of the season:

1) Kiner-Falefa solid on both sides of ball
Kiner-Falefa isn’t exactly fighting for his 2022 job right now, but he’s more than aware of the hot free-agent market for shortstop this upcoming winter. With names like Trevor Story, Carlos Correa and Corey Seager, among others, set to hit free agency, Kiner-Falefa has been shown he’s more than capable of holding down the position for Texas.

Defensively, the 2020 Gold Glove Award winner -- at third base -- has been just as good with the position change. But offensively is where the improvement has really shown.

While his power numbers leave a bit to be desired, Kiner-Falefa is slashing .270/.310/.357 and has been more than serviceable in either of the first two spots of the lineup this season.

During the homestand, he had a slash line of .434/.480/.435 over six games. During his 12-game on-base streak, he’s hit .388 (19-for-49).

“It's been nice to see him get some results and it was just a straight grind,” Woodward said of Kiner-Falefa’s performance against the White Sox. “He's just been battling and battling. He's getting [to pitchers]. He's battling with two strikes and using the whole field. It's really important for him to finish the season strong, because he's had a good year. I know he had a rough stretch there for a while [which] kind of deflated his numbers a little bit, but overall, he's been the heart and soul [of the team].”

2) Rotation shakeup
The Rangers’ rotation has been ever-changing since seven players, including four pitchers, landed on the COVID list back in August. With all players back with the club, Woodward said the Rangers would be going with a six-man rotation for the remainder of the season. With only 13 games left and an off-day between the upcoming road trip and the final homestand, Texas wants to get the most out of its young pitching staff, while not pushing them to throw too many innings.

Lyles and Taylor Hearn, along with rookies Dane Dunning, Glenn Otto and A.J. Alexy, will all get starts in the final two weeks of the season. Foltynewicz is expected to provide length out of the bullpen instead of returning to the rotation.

Woodward said Lyles and Hearn have the ability to go deep into games, while the rookies will likely be on a slight pitch limit the remainder of the way. It’ll be important for those without limits to give the staff length.

“The young guys, I think, are having to bounce back either from a rough outing or having to maintain some consistency,” Woodward said. “It's been a long year for a lot of guys, but it's really important that they get out there. I think it'd be good for a lot of these young guys just to try to maintain some consistency through the end of the year, whether they're dealing with mental or physical fatigue. It's a really difficult thing for a lot of these guys to do.”

3) On the road again
The Rangers have been notoriously bad on the road this season, with a 22-52 record away from Globe Life Field. They head to face the Yankees and Orioles on the final road trip of the season. While the Yankees are in the final push for an American League Wild Card spot, both Texas and Baltimore are fighting at the bottom of the standing for the top four picks in next June’s Draft.

The Rangers went 6-3 on their last road trip against the Angels, D-backs and A's. Woodward has said many times that he doesn’t care about Draft picks and wants to create a winning culture without “tanking.”

“We're in the business of winning,” Woodward said in Arizona on Sept. 7. “And there's been really good Draft picks that have been No. 4 and 5. If Ken Griffey Jr. was out there, and we knew that he was there, and we could predict the future, and he was going to be the No. 1 pick, then you can make an argument, but I haven't heard that. I couldn't convince myself to go into every game and try to lose a game or be OK with losing a game. That has never been the case. So I think it's just important to just instill winning in the organization.”