The last two nights have not seen a lot of pretty baseball in Arlington, yet the Rangers won both games. On Wednesday, Texas thumped the Tigers 13-9 and Thursday, it was a nail-biting 7-6 win over the Oakland A’s.
These high-scoring affairs are, of course, more reminiscent of the Rangers teams of the first part of the millennium, except this team continues to win and maintain a 4 1/2 game lead over the Angels. And while these games aren’t what we’re used to seeing, I’m afraid it’s what Rangers fans will have to deal with, at least until the All-Star break.
With so many pitchers on the disabled list right now (Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando, Neftali Feliz, Koji Uehara), the Rangers have been forced to put young pitchers into roles they’d prefer not to use them in. Rookie Robbie Ross is the example Ron Washington would like to follow all the time: start him out in low-pressure outings like blow-out wins or losses. When Ross showed he was capable there, Wash gave him a few face only one or two batters in a little bit higher leverage situation. Ross succeeded there as well. Now Ross is filling in as the 7th inning set-up man. He did the progression and it’s paid off.
Wash can’t afford to do that now. Three starters are on the shelf so Justin Grimm, who had never started above AA, has now been given two starts and could be the starter on Saturday as well. Michael Kirkman, who has some big-league experience but has been less than stellar the past two seasons, was forced into a long-relief role the other night. Rookie Tanner Scheppers has thrown some high-leverage innings his last two times out, despite having command problems, and rookie Martin Perez was called up just three days ago and found himself facing the Tigers Wednesday night.
Scheppers and Kirkman have performed a little better than expected in their increased pressure roles but still have average results at best. Perez had to be taken out after 2/3 of an inning as the Tigers shaved a five-run Rangers lead down to two runs. He also is being mentioned as the possible starter on Saturday against the A’s.
Most of the Rangers DL’d pitchers are expected back right after the All-Star break. Until then, some young unproven talent will be holding down the fort and the Rangers offense will be asked to score enough runs to make up for inevitable higher run totals being given up by the pitching staff.