It took seven pitches for the Texas Rangers to get exposed.
By that time, Matt Garza had already given up three runs and the Rangers offense was forced to produce.
As expected, it didn’t.
They got seven hits and two walks but only managed to score two runs.
Garza gave up a two-run homer to Yoenis Cespedes and an RBI single to Jed Lowrie in the first innings.
After that, though, he was brilliant.
Garza escaped the first without further damage then threw five straight shutout innings before giving up a run in the seventh. Garza had won six straight decisions before taking the loss Saturday, falling to 7-2 overall for the season and 1-1 with the Rangers.
And Texas is going to need him to pitch well if they are going to escape the four-way scrum and steal one of the two wild card positions. Yes, a chance at the division title is still there.
Yes, the Rangers had won five games in a row before losing Saturday. But realistically, Texas’ season won’t continue into October.
They simply don’t have enough hitters.
And this week, it could get worse. The Rangers have to yet learn whether right fielder Nelson Cruz will be suspended in the wake of Major League Baseball’s investigation into Biogenesis, the Miami clinic that allegedly distributed performance enhancing drugs to a number of players before being shut down.
If Cruz is suspended, the trade for Garza was meaningless.
That falls on Rangers general manager Jon Daniels.
He spent big to get Garza, sending the Chicago Cubs, Justin Grimm, Mike Olt and C.J. Edwards all promising prospects with Olt and possibly Edwards becoming starters for the Cubs by 2015.
But, when it came time to get a hitter, Daniels could not get it done. The asking price might have been too high on Hunter Pence or Alex Rios, but he failed to even trade for Nate Schierholtz, a cheap option that the Cubs could have included in the Garza trade if the Rangers would have given up just a tad more.
The result is a lackluster offense that is going to depend on 20-year-old rookie Jurickson Profar for a spark. And while Profar is full of promise, his OPS is currently .667 — a notch below even David Murphy (.668), who has been lambasted for his lack of production once he was given a full-time role in the outfield when Josh Hamilton left and signed with the Los Angeles Angels.
If Cruz is suspended and the Rangers want to continue to compete for a playoff spot, Daniels is going to have to pull a trade out from the depths of the waiver wire. Because, they have no way to replace Cruz’s bat and Adrian Beltre cannot do it alone.
Yes, not re-singing Hamilton looks like it was the right move. His OPS is not much high than Profar or Murphy’s.
But counting on and outfield of Leonys Martin, David Murphy and Cruz was not. Cruz was injury-prone coming into the season and now has a PED scandal hanging over him. Murphy was never a full-time player and Martin is still learning — although to his credit, he has been productive.
Despite the lack of depth in the outfield, Rangers manager Ron Washington said he wouldn’t consider giving Profar a heavy dose of playing time in the outfield because he’s not ready for that defensively.
“It’s not catching the ball. He can go catch the ball,” Washington said. “The tentative part comes when it’s in-between him and another outfielder. He just doesn’t have the [experience] yet to know if he can get on something or if he can’t. And the only way that’s going to happen is for him to play out there, and right now I can’t afford to play him out there to get that.”
Washington said he expects to continue using Profar primarily in the infield and as a designated hitter. He was in the lineup Friday night at designated hitter, batting ninth.
A DH batting ninth? That’s a problem. One that most teams will exploit. And a problem that may just keep the Rangers from going back to the playoffs.