SEATTLE -- Rangers manager Chris Woodward’s most important rule for his pitching staff is clear and simple: No matter how many hits you give up, don't give any free passes.
That was the biggest struggle during the first two games of the week’s series against the Mariners. Through the first two games, Texas pitchers have given up nine walks and hit two batters.
In the series opener, the Rangers were able to pull through for a victory. There was no such luck on Wednesday night at T-Mobile Park, as the Rangers ultimately lost, 2-1, on Luis Torrens’ walk-off single off Dennis Santana.
For the second night in a row, with a one-run lead, the Rangers’ bullpen walked the bases loaded and subsequently walked in the tying run. On Wednesday, it was in a rough sixth inning for Taylor Hearn, which featured a hit by pitch, a single and two walks, one of which plated the game-tying run.
In three of Hearn’s four innings, he allowed the leadoff batter to reach base -- twice with a walk and once with a hit by pitch. He allowed only one run, but it was an important one.
“The leadoff guys getting on three innings in a row, you're flirting with disaster every time,” Woodward said. “I just felt like he wasn't really comfortable at the start of every inning. Once he got kind of going in the innings, it looked better.
“Even in that sixth inning, where he hit J.P. Crawford, he got the next two guys out. But then he falls behind [Ty] France, does a good job getting ahead and then the Abraham Toro walk and the Jarred Kelenic walk [to tie the game]. It's just there's a lot of pressure when there's bases loaded. He just couldn't execute a pitch.”
A nine-pitch at-bat from Toro loaded the bases in the sixth, setting up the game-tying situation.
“He’s had some really good at-bats against us,” Woodward said of Toro. “He just fights. A lot of their guys do that. Even the guys that don't do a ton of damage, they still fight and grind through at-bats. ... That’s why they’ve been successful and have had a ton of success offensively as a team. They just grind your at-bats.”
Woodward added that it was a serviceable outing from Hearn, but the lefty has to execute a pitch in that specific situation, something that he is usually better at. Hearn ended his outing with a 1-2-3 seventh inning on nine pitches. He now sports a 1.80 ERA in his last seven appearances, two of which were starts.
Though walks were a main story of the night, the Rangers’ offensive struggles were not lost on Woodward.
The Rangers hopped out to an early lead for the second day in a row, this time off a deep sacrifice fly from DJ Peters to score Nathaniel Lowe in the second inning. The offense then went cold for the remainder of the contest, squandering multiple scoring opportunities.
Texas went 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded six on the bases. The Rangers wasted a prime opportunity in the top of the sixth inning, when Adolis García led off with a double and advanced to third on a balk with no outs. What followed -- two strikeouts and a flyout -- would loom large.
“We’ve got to score that run,” Woodward said. “Being a professional hitter has nothing to do with being a Hall of Fame-caliber hitter. It doesn't matter what level you're at or what level you're coming from, I would expect that run to be driven in. We have to find a way to get the job done. It's frustrating because -- I know we’re not a juggernaut offense, I get it -- but in those situations, we've got to find a way to execute.”