Heading into the bottom of the 4th on Sunday in Seattle, the Rangers had a 5-0 lead and appeared well on their way to completing a 5-1 road trip. At the time, Texas was 15-9, first place in the AL West, and Matt Harrison was in the middle of a solid debut to the 2014 season. For an instant, the Rangers were in full-on gravy train mode;
But then everything changed. The Mariners pulled to within 5-3 in the 8th inning, and with two outs Alexi Ogando hung a fateful changeup to certified Ranger-killer, Kyle Seager, who deposited the offering deep into the seats in right. Just like that, Seattle stole a 6-5 victory, dropping the Rangers to 15-10 -- back in a first-place tie with the A's.
What follows is about as ugly as baseball gets. As a fan of the Rangers during the 2000s decade, that means something.
Since their 5-0 lead in the 4th inning in Seattle on Sunday, Texas has been outscored 31-4; in that time the offense has produced 16 hits in 32 innings; the starting pitchers have allowed 22 runs (18 ER) over a whopping 11.1 innings on the bump; the defense committed four errors on Wednesday, two from Elvis Andrus and one from Adrian Beltre;
Basically, there's been a lot of suck going on in Arlington. On Sunday afternoon, the idea of Oakland coming into Texas later that week and sweeping would have been farfetched; after seeing the A's systematically dismantle the Rangers from start to finish, in Texas's home park no less, it again has me wondering how the hell Ron Washington's club secured even one win during last week's series.
And I'll admit it: I was getting high on the 2014 Rangers there for a hot second. I just wasn't expecting reality to be this harsh once they came back down to it.
I've been warning of some serious regression expected out of Martin Perez and Robbie Ross, and this week was our first real reminder this year that they aren't going to be as good as they've been all the time. When you throw in a clunker of a Yu Darvish outing, and you've basically got the recipe for your worst-case-scenario week with the Athletics.
That is a problem. The 2014 Rangers are not constructed to beat teams 9-7, even when Jurickson Profar returns and the lineup is 100% healthy (if such things are even possible). The only real pop in the order belongs to Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre, and neither have been supplying any. The two-best hitters have been Shin-Soo Choo (.303/.433/.474) and Alex Rios (.321/.353/.440), but between them are Elvis Andrus (.229/.299/.305), Prince Fielder (.206/.331/.314) and Adrian Beltre (.255/.333/.353).
In short, the team's 1 and 5 hitters have been excellent. The prime 2-4 spots have done essentially nothing.
I don't write any of this to signal impending doom on the Rangers' front; truthfully I expected a lot more of this type of baseball early in the season, with the club playing a bunch of scrubs who won't be seeing very much time in the field by summer. Setting the bar low made me enjoy this first month of the season more than most years, but somewhere in the middle the bar grew a little too high, and it's not this team's fault they can't support it.
What we're left with, for the time being, is the team we thought we were going to see fresh out of spring training. Though they've been taking some haymaker lumps over the last calendar week, even bad baseball isn't supposed to be this bad, which is why tomorrow's off day couldn't have come at a better time. Elvis Andrus needs a break. Prince Fielder needs a break. The entire bullpen could use a week.
So, yeah. It's been ugly. But smart money says the Rangers simply cannot sustain this much suck. And if this is the worst of it, which it hopefully is, at 15-13, second place in the American League West, with this club I'll take that any time.
You can't win a division title in April, but you can lose one. The Rangers have 5 months to make up 3 games, and I still like their odds.