By almost every offensive statistical measure, the Mariners destroyed the Rangers in the opening series of 2016. They more than doubled Texas's scoring output (21 to 10), nearly did the same in the hits department (29 to 15), and out-homered the Rangers 9 to 1.
And, still, with closer Shawn Tolleson on the mound in the 9th inning of Wednesday's rubber match, Texas led 5-4 and carried an 82.9% chance of winning the series, according to FanGraphs. The crazy part isn't that the Rangers somehow found themselves as losers in two of their first three games, it's that they managed to win one at all.
Let us not mistake what one series means in the grand scheme of a 162-game baseball season, or that the first version of the 2016 Texas Rangers -- the team we're seeing right now -- is also very likely to be the worst version.
Angels 4, Rangers 3
It's really hard to win baseball games when runners aren't getting on base. In its first four match-ups the Rangers offense has produced 19 hits (an average of fewer than 5 per game), and drawn 15 walks. Throw in 4 hit batsman, and that gives Texas a total of 38 men on base thus far, an average of 9.5 per game (or about one per inning).
That isn't good. But it's hardly a trend you would expect moving forward. It's difficult to imagine a lineup with Adrian Beltre, Shin-Soo Choo, Prince Fielder, Mitch Moreland, Ian Desmond and Rougned Odor being any worse than league average offensively.
Derek Holland started for the Rangers against Orange County on Thursday night, a game Texas ultimately lost 4-3. In his first start of the season Derek went 5 IP and allowed 3 runs on 4 hits, striking out 5 and walking 2.
The game was tied at 3 in the bottom 8th, which began with Keone Kela trying to sneak an 0-2 fastball past Mike Trout -- which he eventually lined into left for a single. Jeff Banister then summoned ground ball specialist Sam Dyson to face Albert Pujols.
Trout ran on the first pitch and, on an apparent hit-and-run, Pujols hit an unplayable 30-foot chopper to Roogie at the lip of the infield, giving Anaheim men on 1st and 2nd with no one out. The same type of bad BABIP luck surfaced when the next hitter, C.J. Cron, reached on an infield single down the third base line. What can you do. Pitching in a bases loaded, nobody out jam, Dyson needed a strikeout and a double play ball, and preferably in that order.
Since he's basically awesome, that's exactly what Sam Dyson did. He struck out Kole Calhoun, and induced a routine 5-4-3 double play from Andrelton Simmons. In spite of all the drama, Texas went into the 9th inning with every opportunity to steal their second win of the year.
But the offense never really got going. Earlier on Robinson Chirinos hit Texas's 2nd HR of the season, a bomb to left making it 2-0 good guys. But the Rangers managed only 4 hits in the game, and its other two runs scored on sac flies (Fielder, Elvis Andrus). In the last 3 innings Texas bats went 0-9 with a HBP.
Dyson went back out for the 9th, which started G4, single, walk before Banister lifted him for Andrew Faulkner, who came in and got the second out of the inning. So here' the situation: men on 2nd and 3rd, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols are the next two hitters. Jeff Banister did what anyone would do; he intentionally walked the best hitter in the American League to face the best hitter from a decade ago.
Since Faulkner is a lefty, Banister again went to the bullpen, this time for the righty Shawn Tolleson. Pujols went bang -- a long single to left center -- and the Angels got their first win of the year. Good job guys now enjoy finishing with 74 wins and drafting 8th in the 2017 draft.
On the other side, the Rangers are now 1-3 and neither the bullpen nor the lineup have generated many positives. Through 4 whole games.
I imagine the panic level is already getting turned up to 11 in some obscure part of Texas's fan base, but I remember all the way back in the days where the Rangers started the year 8-16 and still won the American League West. How soon before we forget 2015?
So expect more hits, and more runners on base. Expect the bullpen to be strong. If this same four-game sample happens again sometime in July, we'll presumably look at it as an outlier rather than the norm. I look at these first four games in exactly the same way.