The Rangers had a 5-game winning streak snapped in Oakland, losing to the A's 4-2. There were problems getting hits with runners in scoring position, and worse, the outfield had issues tracking down fly balls.
David Murphy, despite the recent winning streak, has become almost unbearable to watch, both at the plate and in left field. As an outfielder, Murphy often has a hesitant approach to tracking down balls hit in his direction, approaches many of them flat-footed, and to top it off, has a weak arm. At the plate, there is no better example than today, as Murphy was caught swinging at bad pitches, and despite beating out an infield single, hit the ball weakly.
In the end, it all resulted in a loss, and while Matt Garza pitched very well, it was one of his shortcomings that might have ended up costing the Rangers an opportunity to close to within 1.5 games in the AL West. Oakland exploited Garza's weakness as a fielder early on, putting bunts into play to get Coco Crisp in scoring position with only one out in the 1st inning. In the bottom of the 7th, an Eric Sogard squeeze bunt ended up putting an insurance run on the board. Below is a GIF of the play.
Following the play, you can see that Matt Garza was quite obviously upset with the tactics used by the A's. He had some choice words for Sogard as well. As much as I've liked the energy Matt Garza has brought to the Rangers, he couldn't be more wrong in this instance.
For starters, Garza had a very real opportunity to throw the ball home on the play. He knew as well as anyone, however, that he's a poor fielder. The A's knew this as well, and exploited it early and often to gain an advantage. It's smart baseball, and for as much as I dislike the sacrifice bunt in general, in that situation, it was the right call for Oakland. Garza continued to jaw toward the Oakland dugout following the inning, and much to the embarrassment of his new teammates, continued to make a fool out of himself on national TV in the dugout.
The tactic should have come as no surprise to Garza. Since 2007, only 4 pitchers in baseball have a worse DRS (defensive runs saved) figure than Garza -- Tim Lincecum, A.J. Burnett, Ervin Santana, and John Lackey. With statistical evidence to back it up, it's no wonder Oakland came into the game with a plan.
To be fair, I like the energy and fire Matt Garza brings to this ball club. At the same time, instances like this are a little less desirable, as it runs the risk of alienating teammates and portraying Garza as a sore loser. With the Rangers already playing from behind in the division, I'm just not sure it's the type of thing other guys in the clubhouse want to deal with. When other players are forced to work on their shortcomings and one player simply points to his own as a cheap tactic of sorts by the other team, it's the kind of thing that can generate eye-rolls.
I think Matt Garza has a chance to do something special for this club by the end of the season, but in this case, I think he's got to learn to take responsibility and keep plugging away. As well as he pitched today, one more ball caught in right field -- one that Nelson Cruz supposedly lost in the sun -- or a couple more cleanly fielded bunts, and maybe the Rangers force extra innings. If there's anything we've learned over the past week, momentum and energy go a long way in dictating how well the Rangers play, and the last thing they need to be doing is erasing the energy they've built up over that stretch by pointing fingers.
The Rangers will have a chance to get back within 2.5 games of the division lead tomorrow and win another series. In Derek Holland we trust.