Tag Archives: Houston Astros

Hamels Focusing On Returning To The Mound

Rangers Cole Hamels

Courtesy: Getty Images

If the Texas Rangers get back into the A.L. West race, they will do it without Rangers pitcher Cole Hamels, at least for a couple of months.

The lefty is on the disabled list with a strained right oblique muscle suffered earlier this month.

“It takes a little time to get over the initial disappointment,” said Hamels. “It’s not fun. As much as being able to root your teammates on every four days, then it kind of gets to the five or six weeks, it’s a long, long time.”

Prior to a scheduled start in Houston against the division-leading Astros, Hamels began feeling pain in his oblique while warming up in the bullpen. Alex Claudio made the emergency start instead as Hamels returned to Arlington for further examination when the strain was discovered.

“It was painful when it happened and I think the case is when it does happen, you know what you did,” said Hamels. “It feels like a knife in your back.”

Hamels is a top-20 pitcher in baseball so the loss hurts. He was 2-0 with a 3.03 ERA in five starts prior to the injury. The Rangers will definitely need other starting pitchers to step up in his place until his return. It’s a great chance for Yu Darvish to take off and show his stuff as the ace of the staff, especially during a contract year.

The Rangers go into Tuesday night’s game at The Globe against the Philadelphia Phillies riding a six-game winning streak. During that time, Texas raised their overall record to 19-20 and sit third in the division, a percentage point behind the Los Angeles Angels for second place.

The good news is that despite being a game under .500, the Rangers are just two games out of the Wild Card race. On the flip side, they are eight games behind the Astros in the division. Granted, it’s only May and there’s still plenty of baseball left to be played.

What will help is having a healthy Hamels down the stretch once he’s able to return. As for the here and now, the focus is getting back on the field.

“The frustration and disappointment is over and now I’ve got to move forth and just try to get myself healthy and get back out there,” said Hamels. “I think like anything that kind of occurs that’s unexpected you just want to go out there and be 100 percent when I’m actually ready.”

Bullpen Issues Continue For The Rangers

Rangers Jose Leclerc

Courtesy: Getty Images

The struggles continue.

A big part of the Texas Rangers winning their second straight A.L. West division crown last season was the bullpen. So far in 2017, it’s a big reason why the Rangers are in danger of burying themselves in a deep hole that could jeopardize a chance to three-peat as division champs.  Sunday was just another example of that.

Starter Andrew Cashner did his job against the Seattle Mariners. The big righty, signed during the offseason, proved his worth by throwing six shutout innings before being lifted in the seventh after a leadoff walk. Cashner finished with five strikeouts, many of those off the fastball, which he was able to locate while keeping the Mariners lineup off-balanced.

Once again, the seventh inning became a disaster. Jose Leclerc came in relief and just didn’t look his normal self. The young righty had control issues with three walks, including walking in a run that cut the Rangers lead to 3-1. Alex Claudio, who’s also been solid in relief and even made an emergency start earlier in the week, then gave up a two-run single to Danny Valencia to tie the game. Both of those runs were charged to Leclerc but Claudio was tagged with the blown save.

Sam Dyson, who lost his closer role a couple of weeks ago, took over in the eighth and gave up the go-ahead solo homer to Kyle Seager. In fairness, Seager lights up Rangers pitching no matter who’s on the mound. Rangers get hit with the 4-3 loss.

The thing is we’ve seen this show before during the first month of the season. It was another opportunity to notch one in the win column that got away. Just like that.

Now, the argument could be made that the Rangers would be right up there with the Astros at the top of the division but too many costly games have slipped away due to the bullpen issues. Instead of being near the top, the Rangers are at the bottom of the division at 13-19, eight games behind Houston. Granted, the pen isn’t the only reason the Rangers are six games under .500 but it does play a factor.

If you are a starting pitcher or a position player, you have to be frustrated with the lack of execution by the pen. There have been too many games where the offense fought to get the lead and the starters did their job holding it in place, only to see it all disappear. One has to wonder when the confidence starts to fade and uncertainty begins to creep in anytime the call to the pen is made.

What adds to the frustration is how the ship looked like it was reversing course and sailing in the right direction in Friday’s extra-inning win, where the bullpen threw six scoreless innings. But then Sunday rolls around and the issues re-appear. The Rangers are now near the bottom of the league in bullpen ERA at 5.63 and have allowed 69 runs, only Seattle is worse with 70 runs allowed by the pen. On the flip side, Texas is third in the league with a 3.44 ERA by the starters. Funny how baseball go.

The good news is that the calendar reads May and there’s still a long way to go in the season. There’s still time for the bullpen to turn it around and get back on track. The Rangers will need that to happen and happen soon in order to help keep the season from fading away.