OAKLAND -- The woes away from home continue.
Behind stellar defense and pitching, Texas opened up the series on Friday by pushing Oakland to extra innings before losing in the 11th by way of Starling Marte’s walk-off three-run home run. With that level of fight, it could have been a sign that the Rangers’ road skid would finally end. Alas, it wasn’t in the cards.
The Rangers struck first on both Saturday and Sunday, breaking a near month-long skid in which they didn’t score in the first inning, but would soon surrender those leads to Oakland’s Marte-powered offense. On Saturday and Sunday, the A’s outscored the Rangers by a combined 12 runs, the bulk of that negative run differential coming from Saturday’s nine-run blowout.
Next, the Rangers will have three more cracks at getting a much-needed road win as they head up to Seattle for a set against the Mariners, who have lost four of their last five.
Here are three observations from the Rangers' three-game set in Oakland.
The rise of Yonny Hernandez
The Rangers are firmly in a rebuild. The goal, plain and simple, is to find players who provide value. And while it’s early, Texas may have found something in Yonny Hernandez.
The most impressive part of Hernandez’s game, by far, has been his plate discipline. Of his 12 plate appearances against the A’s, six ended in three-ball counts. Hernandez earned the nickname “Mosquito” for being a pest to opposing pitchers, and over the last few days, the Rangers witnessed firsthand why that’s the case.
“He may not have gotten [on base] in the at-bat … but at the same time, he’s putting some mileage on that opposing pitcher’s arm,” said manager Chris Woodward.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa and staying "in the moment"
The last couple of months have been trying for Isiah Kiner-Falefa. While the shortstop has consistently been one of the league’s best defenders, his offensive output has dipped. After recording two hits, including a solo home run, in Sunday’s loss, he discussed his battle with staying present.
“I’m just trying to be in the moment,” Kiner-Falefa said. “I think I was looking too far ahead and trying to see how things play out, playing GM and predicting the future. That’s not my job. My job is to go out there and do the best I can for the Rangers. So, just getting back to basics and getting back to taking advantage of the opportunity.”
“At the end of the day, I've still got [an] opportunity to go out there. The season’s not done. I was having a tough time looking far ahead, but this series, I’ve been working a lot on my head and it’s good to see some individual results.”
The next two months will be important for Kiner-Falefa’s future. Not only will he reach arbitration for the first time, but there’s also the possibility that the Rangers go after a big-name shortstop in free agency, which would have ramifications on his situation in Texas. Still, Woodward has preached to Kiner-Falefa the importance of controlling what he can control.
“Surrendering the outcome is critical, especially for these younger guys. It’s big for any player, but especially younger players," Woodward said. "They can get caught up in what’s going to happen if they don’t have a good game, if they don’t have a good rest of the year. It starts snowballing in their minds, instead of just focusing on what the task is right now. And he’s been staying present.’”
García showing signs of life
Since returning from the Midsummer Classic, Adolis García has come crashing back down to earth. In a word, it’s been rough. His strong showings over the weekend in Oakland, then, were encouraging.
García has now reached base twice in two straight games after recording a hit and walk on Sunday, and he could’ve easily had two more hits had second baseman Josh Harrison and catcher Sean Murphy not made a pair of tremendous defensive plays. A day prior, García stunned the crowd with an awe-inspiring 450-foot home run that landed just shy of Oakland Coliseum’s luxury suites in left field.
Two games aren't enough to completely erase a trend that has spanned several weeks, though. García is still hitting under .200 since the All-Star break. That being said, his uptick in performance against the A's is a good foundation to build upon moving forward.
“We need him,” Woodward said. “We need him to step up and have quality at-bats and set the tone for the rest of the guys."