Rangers awaiting results despite hard hits

April 21st, 2022

SEATTLE -- Chris Woodward said he’s a firm believer in the concept of making your own luck.

Even before the Rangers’ manager watched his team lose 4-2 to the Mariners on Wednesday night at T-Mobile Park for their fifth consecutive defeat, he was talking about this often-baffling, occasionally exasperating and ultimately very-baseball conundrum.

He mentioned a slew of hard-hit balls off Texas bats that seem to always find leather of late. He also said that it wasn’t an excuse for the team’s recent funk. The Rangers simply need to execute better in all phases of the game.

“It’s a little frustrating when guys are having quality at-bats, and there were some hard-hit balls today, for sure,” Woodward said. “But that’s out of our hands. There’s nothing we can do. But it is frustrating when we feel like we do things right and don’t have anything to show for it.”

Surely a few breaks here and there would be welcomed. On Wednesday, the Rangers once again couldn’t get the ones they needed and cemented Woodward’s point for him all over again.

Of the team’s 20 balls in play off starter Logan Gilbert, 12 were classified as hard-hit (exit velocities of over 95 mph) by Statcast. Six were over 100 mph, which typically results in a hit, but three of those were outs.

There also were 11 batted balls that had an expected batting average of .300 or higher, and only six of those went for hits.

Adolis García might have been the most snakebit of the Rangers’ hitters. His first two at-bats were rocket line drives (97.8 mph and 103.4), and both were caught – one by right fielder Jarred Kelenic and one by third baseman Abraham Toro. García did finally get one to find grass in his third at-bat, with a double to the right-center-field gap at 109.5 mph. He topped off his night with an RBI sacrifice fly to left field in the ninth that was 99.6 mph.

“It would be nice to see him have more results, for sure,” Woodward said.

In the top of the first inning, after consecutive singles by the Rangers’ high-priced free-agent additions, Marcus Semien and Corey Seager, cleanup hitter Mitch Garver had a golden opportunity to cash in and give the Rangers the momentum they have been lacking during what is now the team’s slowest start through 11 games (2-9) since the 1987 team went 1-10.

Garver laced a hard ground ball at 101.5 mph, but all it ended up being was an easy inning-ending 6-4-3 double play started by Seattle shortstop J.P. Crawford.

In the sixth inning, Brad Miller hit the hardest ball of the night by either team, a 110.7 mph grounder … right at Mariners second baseman Adam Frazier. Another easy play.

On Tuesday night, the Rangers had hit five balls over 100 mph that resulted in outs, which was the most outs of that kind in one game this season. Wednesday was similar, making this an unnerving trend.

Statistically, one would think that this cannot continue, of course. The Major League schedule has 162 games, and the Rangers have played out less than 7 percent of that slate. There is time to get things right. And between the lines, lurking somewhere in the data points of your analytical tool of choice, might be some signs that the Rangers will bust out of this soon.

One bright spot was first baseman Nathaniel Lowe. He went 2-for-4 to raise his season batting average to .372. In 51 games since Aug. 19, 2021, Lowe has a .324 average, which ranks fifth in baseball. He has reached base safely in all 11 games this season.

He said he’s sure things will turn around for the rest of the team quickly.

“That’s the ebb and flow of the season,” Lowe said. “That’s the ebb and flow of 162 games of at-bats. You can’t win a World Series today, and you can’t make a season today. If you’re hitting the ball hard, hitting it over 100 mph, you’re doing your part. And after that, there’s nothing you can do.”

García tattooed the ball all night, and Semien and Seager had two hits apiece and showed glimpses of how exciting they can be batting next to each other in the heart of what still figures to be a potent lineup.

“They’re not going to stop fighting,” Woodward said. “I don’t think anybody in that locker room is going to quit. There’s too much character in there. But we have to win a ballgame tomorrow.”