ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Chris Woodward knew the team would need starter Taylor Hearn to go deep into Saturday night’s game to avoid any further bullpen fatigue.
After a full-on bullpen game Friday after Spencer Howard had to go on the injured list, the pitching staff was already limited. So it came almost without shock that going to the bullpen in the fourth inning would eventually lead to the Rangers’ 7-2 loss against the Angels at Globe Life Field.
Hearn cruised through the first two innings, facing one over the minimum on 30 total pitches. In the third inning, things went south. The lefty started the inning by walking eight-hole hitter Andrew Velazquez, before turning it over to the top of the lineup, where Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout waited.
Hearn ultimately gave up three runs on six hits -- all singles -- with all of the scoring in the third inning. Hearn said he felt good physically at that point in the game, but the issues came with allowing Angels hitters to get into leverage counts without being able to put them away.
“With me walking the eighth hole, like I can't do that, that's not acceptable,” Hearn said. “I was trying to be aggressive on them and just trying to make sure it wasn't trying to get too big of a snowball effect. I tried my best to keep us in the game. But that third inning was just me not putting them away, plain and simple.”
Hearn added that to avoid the snowball effect, he felt like he started pitching to contact late in his outing instead of staying aggressive around the plate.
He was removed after 82 pitches, turning it over to an already taxed bullpen. Following a shortened Spring Training, no Rangers pitcher has gone more than 86 pitches, which Dane Dunning did two nights ago.
“We need somebody [in the rotation] to step up in a lot of ways,” Woodward said. “I thought Taylor threw OK today. But with 80 pitches in four innings, I had to go get him [out]. Obviously, we’ve got to improve in a lot of ways. We're not playing well enough to win games right now. Our games earlier in the season were close. We just didn't do one thing better in the later innings to win the game. But today, we didn't do anything well.”
Woodward said he would’ve ideally liked Hearn to get through five innings, especially at 82 pitches. The bullpen, including Greg Holland, who had to pitch on back-to-back days, combined to give up four runs on the heels of Hearn’s start.
“Somebody needs to reset it,” Woodward said. “We need a few good starts in a row. … We’ve got arms. They're just getting taxed because we're having to basically go to a bullpen day every day. That's not fair to those guys.”
The pitching staff wasn’t the only hiccup in the loss. The Texas offense, which has scored early and often throughout the first week of the season, was unable to get anything going at the plate. After a two-run third inning against Texas native Noah Syndergaard, the Rangers only had one more hit in the next six frames, an opposite-field single by Nathaniel Lowe.
“We did not do anything really to put pressure on them offensively today,” Woodward said. “We fell for every trap that I think we talked about to avoid before the game, so it wasn't surprising to see the lack of production. We swung at his changeup. We pulled it and we hit it on the ground. We weren't ready for fastballs in the middle of the plate. That leads to a lot of zeros.”