The Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals both kicked off a four games series that opened on Thursday night at Globe Life Park. The American League West-leading Rangers (58-44) have had to play up to their reputation lately since they have seen a 10-game division lead get shaved down to 2 1/2 games, due to a bad 7-17 stretch.
On the other side of the field stands the defending World Series champion Royals (49-51) who are currently in fourth place in the AL Central. The Royals have not done so well either, losing the first two of the four game series.
On Thursday they lost a close game, 3-2, and then yesterday they lost 8-3 to the Rangers. After that game, Royals manager, Ned Yost said there wasn’t much that the team could do except keep to on grinding away. Rougned Odor homered twice for Texas, A.J. Griffin pitched into the sixth inning and so the Rangers were able to beat Kansas by such a large margin.
Many Royals fans have complained that their team is just having bad luck, but in reality the Royals aren’t playing well. There are things the Royals can control in their game, but they’re not controlling them, and so their offence just lags behind.
On the defence, they could expect their big-league pitcher to throw strikes, but too often the Royals’ pitchers aren’t doing that. Edinson Volquez started the bottom of the first inning with a leadoff walk, and leadoff walks are the worst kind. The Royals should not be issuing leadoff walks.
Texas had all three outs available to move that walk around the bases, and that’s just what the Rangers did. After that leadoff walk, the Rangers hit a single and a ground out and that leadoff walk crossed the plate. It was just a single and the Rangers got on the board, and once again the Royals were playing from behind.
The pitching matchup in the opener was a repeat of last Saturday’s match up which happened in Kansas City. In that game the Rangers won too, 7-4. So Texas would love to sweep the Royals. They will need their star to repeat that performance, Cole Hamels picked up that win last week, after allowing just one run and none earned, with only five hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Hamels is a lefty, a 11-2 record with a 2.87 ERA, and the 32 old is among the league leaders in a few major categories, ERA, including wins, and strikeouts.
Hamels will face again Yordano Ventura who has a weaker record, of 6-8, and a 4.99 ERA. The right-hander disarmed the first nine hitters he faced before giving up a walk and a two-run homer hit by Jurickson Profar who started off the fourth inning. Ventura was given the loss after he was charged with three runs and three hits in five innings, and with four walks and five strikeouts. It started off well for him but he has to learn how to carry it through.
Hamels has notched the last three and five of the last six wins by a Texas starting pitcher. That’s why recently the Rangers made some trades before the deadline upgrading their pitching staff with a deal to land starter Lucas Harrell and reliever Dario Alvarez from the Atlanta Braves.
“You look at both pitchers we acquired, they can help our ballclub, fill a role and add depth,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. “With Lucas, he is a guy who is throwing the ball well. He has been around a little bit, had some experience and he has been on a little bit of a roll.”
Harrell, 31, will fill an immediate hole in the rotation, with him scheduled to be up on Sunday in the last game of the series against the Royals. Harrell had gone 2-2 with a 3.38 ERA in five starts for the Braves this season.
“He has the capability of keeping us in the ballgame,” said manager Jeff Banister. The other addition, Alvarez is a hard-throwing lefty who has a 3.00 ERA with 28 strikeouts and five walks in 15 innings. He has kept opponents to a .200 batting average.
The Rangers gave up a high prospect in Travis Demeritte for the new arms. A 21-year-old infielder who was hitting .272 with 25 home runs in 88 games.
Daniels hinted that the Rangers are probably not done trading with the trade deadline coming up on Monday. They will probably want to upgrade other parts of the club though pitchers are a big attraction for them.
“I wouldn’t rule anything out,” Daniels said, “but pitching is our priority.”
If you just look at the numbers and recent history, Texas won the last two of three games last weekend in Kansas City, and they are 6-4 against the Royals since the start of the 2015 season. But what might be good news for the Royals is that they split four games in Arlington in 2015, and the Rangers are only 5-7 against Kansas City at Globe Life Park, going back to 2012.
Yost held a team meeting earlier this week, before they beat the Los Angeles Angels, 7-5 was to try to ease worries for a team that looks like it was fading in the standings, inundated with trade rumors and might not do well in the playoffs.
The meeting was a quick once, Yost said only two minutes but he got to the point.
“We know what we have ahead of us, we’ve known the trials that we’ve been through in the past and we’ve known that we’ve had our backs against the wall before,” he told MLB.com. “You know that you always come out of it. Just go out, enjoy your teammates and play the game like you did when you were 12 years old. That’s what we do so well when we’re successful, is we just go out and play hard and have fun doing it. So sometimes you just take a step back and relax a little bit and inch your way out.”
We think the Royals can come back from being down in this series, and hopefully the message got through to the team so they can climb back up out of this deficit.