Fine Lines and Dark Circles

For a moment, consider the following sequences:

  1. Single, ground out, single, double, ground out, single.
  2. Single, single, line out, walk, walk, grand slam.
  3. Home run, strikeout, double, fly out, double, single, fly out.

No, what you're reading is not the sleep-deprived musings of a maniac that stayed up to watch a West Coast game (On second thought, maybe you are), but the sequences of three of Sam Dyson's outings thus far in the 2017.

Those three outings, as it turns out, are the major difference between the Texas Rangers being currently 2-5 in the standings and what really could be 5-2. Even if we throw out one of those outings because Texas and Cleveland were tied heading into the ninth inning on Opening Night, that's still potentially 4-3 at worst, which, only seven games into the season, sounds a lot better in your head.

Yes, I might have dark circles under my eyes from a late extra-inning game, but I'm fully cognizant of the fact that there are some very fine lines between this team being very good and mind-numbingly frustrating.

Fine lines like Sam Dyson not transmogrifying into the second coming of Shawn Tolleson.

Fine lines like Rougned Odor's hardest-hit ball of the season (110.8 mph) lining straight into the first baseman's glove or Mike Napoli's would-be home run to center field getting robbed by Mike Trout.

And even fine lines like the one that decided the fate of last night's game by allowing Carlos Perez's squeeze bunt to score Cameron Maybin to remain fair instead of rolling foul.

During the course of a 162-game season, these sorts of breaks happen. Build up enough of them and you know what kind of team you have. Things like the bunt or Odor's line shot? Those things tend to even out.

Your closer going into full meltdown mode? You might want to address that problem before it turns into something much more dire.

The offense? Churning along just fine. Say what you will about the struggles of Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy, and even Mike Napoli at the plate. If not for blowing a ninth inning lead last night, Texas would have the most runs scored in the American League with 38. As it stands, the four runs the Angels scored vaulted them into the top spot with 41. No matter, the offense is going to be perfectly fine.

For all the hand-wringing coming into the season over the starting rotation, it's been the bullpen -- a purported strength -- that has been the weakest link. Yes, Sam Dyson has been mostly awful despite lowering his ERA by three full runs last night. But if you think having Tanner Scheppers out of the mix and Keone Kela on disciplinary leave at Triple-A Round Rock and Matt Bush inexplicably unavailable to pitch after an off day doesn't make a difference in that picture, then I'm not sure what else to tell you.

Not to be an alarmist, and I've seen a few others mention it on Twitter, but from the television side of things, Sam Dyson didn't exactly look comfortable warming up in the bullpen last night. It could be nothing. Or, given that his max velocity has yet to reach his 2016 levels -- even after considering that MLB tracking is 0.7 mph faster on pitches this season than before -- perhaps there's an underlying issue there. Mechanics? Injury? Who knows!

Bush, for his part, is the most concerning. I don't really want to speculate on the reason for him being unavailable -- and Jeff Banister's non-committal response when asked if he would be available for tonight's game -- other than to say that I hope Banister was simply taking the easy way of implying that the ninth inning was Sam Dyson's no matter what last night.

So despite all of that, knowing that maybe Tanner Scheppers gets healthy, Keone Kela won't likely be in baseball timeout for much longer, and that we should have more answers on Matt Bush later today makes me feel a lot better about what has been the major reason for this ball club being unable to lock down games late.

Yes, it looks bad right now. It always does before the dust settles. Fine lines well become more defined as time goes by, and I'm still thinking that this version of the Texas Rangers has enough talent to be competitive and good. 

But really, maybe Sam Dyson shouldn't be pitching late in games for now.