Rangers give back momentum in rough weekend

September 17th, 2023

CLEVELAND -- For the second time in three days, Rangers manager Bruce Bochy pulled his veteran infield starters -- Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Nathaniel Lowe -- multiple innings before the end of the game.

Both days, it was an illustration of just how poorly the weekend was going for Texas.

On Sunday afternoon, the Rangers fell, 9-2, to the Guardians, capping off an unfortunate weekend at Progressive Field. Coming off the best series of the year -- a four-game sweep in Toronto -- Texas followed with one of the worst as the club was outscored 23-6.

  • Games remaining (13): vs. BOS (3); vs. SEA (3); at LAA (3); at SEA (4)
  • Standings update: The Rangers (82-67) are a half-game behind the Blue Jays (83-67), who beat the Red Sox on Sunday, for the second spot in the AL Wild Card race, and a game ahead of the Mariners (81-68), who were swept by the Dodgers, for the third Wild Card spot. Texas is 1 1/2 games behind AL West-leading Houston (84-66), which beat Kansas City.
  • Tiebreakers: Lose vs. Houston; win vs. Toronto; lead vs. Seattle.

Instead of riding that momentum from Toronto back to the States, the Rangers were swept at the hands of Cleveland and failed to make any movement in the American League West or Wild Card standings.

“That’s baseball,” Bochy said. “It's humbling at times. Because we couldn't have played better baseball there in Toronto, and we came down here and now just overall didn't pitch well. Yesterday we did and couldn't get some runs on. It comes down to putting a few runs on the board, having a big inning like they did. Again, you give them credit. They pitched us tough. We got a run early today, and you think we'll get some momentum going, but we just couldn't do it.”

Here are three takeaways from the rough series in Cleveland as the Rangers head home for one of the most important homestands of the season.

Bullpen continues to struggle
The Rangers were ultimately undone when Cleveland sent 14 batters to the plate in the fourth inning, resulting in a nine-run frame that would be the difference. Rookie Cody Bradford was handed the start in Max Scherzer’s spot in the rotation, and he cruised through the first three innings while facing just one over the minimum.

Bradford then surrendered a leadoff homer to José Ramírez in the fourth, and things quickly unraveled from there. Bradford was tagged for six runs and right-hander Jonathan Hernández for another three.

The only Rangers pitcher to put zeros on the board was rookie Jake Latz, who tossed two perfect innings in his first big league appearance of the season.

“We just got one of those innings where we just couldn't stop it,” Bochy said. “It’s a helpless feeling, you know? What could go wrong, did. We had the comebacker [Hernández] didn't handle that hurt us, and then a blooper down the left-field line, and next thing you know there's nine runs on the board.”

Big bats stumble
The ups and downs of the bullpen have been the story all season, but in Cleveland, the Rangers’ high-powered offense hit a wall. With Adolis García and Josh Jung still lingering on the injured list, Texas has leaned on its top four hitters -- Marcus Semien, Corey Seager, Nathaniel Lowe and Mitch Garver -- to keep the offensive engine running.

But all four struggled against the Guardians.

  • Semien: 2-for-10
  • Seager: 1-for-11
  • Lowe: 2-for-10
  • Garver: 1-for-12

Though the pitching staff didn’t do much to help in two of the three games this weekend, the offense’s uncharacteristic struggles against a solid pitching staff were just as much of a reason for the sweep.

“You gotta keep fighting,” Bochy said. “I mean, they scored nine. I mean, again, last series, we couldn't do anything wrong. We played so well. In this series we didn't do a lot of things right, I'll say. They were tough on us [with their] pitching. We just couldn't do anything offensively. We had one run again, going into the ninth today. That's not gonna work. We're a team that needs to put some runs on the board, and we had a tough time doing that this series.”

Rookie continues to wow
If there’s anything good that came from this weekend in Cleveland, it’s that Evan Carter has continued to show he belongs at the big league level. The outfielder, MLB Pipeline’s No. 8 overall prospect, has come as advertised.

After reaching base on two walks Sunday, Carter (21 years, 19 days) became the youngest Ranger ever with at least seven walks in his first nine career games with a plate appearance. Carter is slashing .280/.424/.440 through his first 10 big league games.