The Texas Rangers’ bullpen is the perfect place to set off Globe Life Park’s July 4 fireworks extravaganza.
These guys are good at blowing things up.
The Rangers recorded their 17th blown save of the season Sunday afternoon when Yolmer Sanchez blasted a two-run homer off Rangers reliever Jose Leclerc in the eighth inning to give the Chicago White Sox a 6-5 win.
Texas leads the major leagues in blown saves and it’s the biggest reason why the two-time defending American League West champions are 40-42 as the second half of the season gets under way.
Don’t expect the Rangers to stage a monumental rally and win the West like they did two years ago. Coming into a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox, the Rangers stood 15½ games behind the Houston Astros who own the best record in baseball at 56-27. The Astros have collapsed before but they look too good and experienced to fall apart this year.
But should the Rangers give up on the season and start unloading players to build for the future? No way.
Despite their erratic bullpen, the Rangers are still very much in the AL wild card race. They’re among seven teams within two games of each other in the bidding for the second wild card spot.
Texas has shown it’s capable of playing great baseball. In mid-May, the Rangers put together a 10-game winning streak. In mid-June, they went on the road and won five of six against National League East leading Washington and the Astros.
It’s reasonable for fans to have high expectations now. This isn’t the old days when you knew the Rangers were bad and you just enjoyed coming to the ballpark to see a little baseball and watch the inevitable fights break out in the outfield stands at old Arlington Stadium.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels and his staff do a superb job of putting a competitive team on the field. After the team’s first two World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011, getting back to the grand stage and winning the franchise’s first world championship is always the goal.
The Rangers came into this season with lofty expectations since they returned the bulk of the squad from last year’s team that won 95 games.
Texas’ starting pitching has been fairly consistent despite losing Cole Hamels for nearly two months with an oblique injury. Texas ranks seventh in the majors in runs scored despite a .240 team batting average. The Rangers have turned into an all or nothing offense as they rank fifth in homers and fifth in strikeouts.
But the bullpen has been the Achilles’ heel.
After recording 38 saves for the Rangers last season, Sam Dyson set the tone for the bullpen woes with a terrible April. After Dyson went 1-6 with a 10.80 ERA in 17 appearances, the Rangers demoted him and eventually traded him to the San Francisco Giants.
Texas gave power pitcher Matt Bush a chance to step into the closer’s role, and he initially showed much promise. But after Bush’s recent struggles, manager Jeff Banister is going to a closer by committee approach which translates into he really doesn’t know where to turn.
It’s not an easy fix because the entire bullpen has been inconsistent, not just the closers. The Rangers only have 13 saves this season. The 17 blown saves match the 2016 season total.
But as bad as the Rangers’ bullpen has been, I wouldn’t be shocked if the relievers got on a good roll at some point. They’ve got talent but just haven’t shown it much of this season. If two or three relievers get hot, it wouldn’t be surprising if the whole bullpen fell in line.
The Rangers will likely test the market since they need help and relief pitchers move around more than anybody.
It’s too early to give up on the season as the July 31 trading deadline approaches. This isn’t the bad old days when the Rangers’ baseball season unofficially ended when preseason football practice began. The Rangers’ recent history should give their fans hope that September will be meaningful.