The Texas Rangers are eight games behind the Houston Astros, and Cole Hamels is going to miss about eight weeks with an oblique injury. My first thought: This increases the odds Yu Darvish ends up as a trade chip in July -- very likely the biggest trade chip.
It's obviously early, and Rangers fans will remind us of 2015, when the team got off to a poor start at 8-16 and were 9½ games back as late as May 20 before catching the Astros with a big second half to win the American League West. This Rangers team, however, has holes to worry about, and this Astros team is deeper and better.
In the Astros' 10-1 victory Wednesday, Carlos Correa went 4-for-5, and Marwin Gonzalez slammed his fourth home run in three games. More than anything, it exposed the lack of depth in the Rangers' rotation, as the Astros pounded Nick Martinez. The Rangers will get A.J. Griffin back Thursday, but it's not like they're adding Nolan Ryan to the rotation. Martin Perez has allowed 39 hits in 31⅔ innings and has nearly as many walks (19) as strikeouts (20). Andrew Cashner has more walks (16) than strikeouts (10). Even Hamels hadn't looked good, with just 15 strikeouts in 32⅔ innings.
"This is baseball," Rangers GM Jon Daniels told reporters. "These things happen. You prepare for them by building depth. Obviously, you don't snap your fingers and replace Cole Hamels. But we've got quality people who can step in and do the job. Adversity is part of it. We'll continue to push forward. Looking at it any other way is setting up for failure."
Trouble is, the lineup doesn't appear strong enough to carry a bad rotation, at least the way it has looked so far. Rougned Odor did have two hits and a walk Wednesday, but he has looked lost. Nomar Mazara has popped five home runs but has a sub-.300 OBP. Mike Napoli has looked so bad, batting .158 with 37 strikeouts and six walks in 111 plate appearances, that it's hard not to speculate that maybe he's washed up. Jonathan Lucroy hasn't hit.
Along with the injured Adrian Beltre, this was supposed to be the heart of order. There are certainly some slow starts in there, but Odor and Mazara had known OBP issues entering the season and Napoli and Beltre aren't young, so there's no guarantee the run scoring improves all that much.
Then there's the bullpen.
I see a mediocre team trying to chase an excellent team and the mediocre team facing a large deficit. It's going to be a tough road for the Rangers to overcome.
Other injury news. Marcus Stroman left Wednesday's game with soreness in his armpit:
Stroman called it "general arm tightness" and said that he will start Tuesday vs Cleveland. Said he doesn't need to be examined. #BlueJays— Gregor Chisholm (@gregorMLB) May 4, 2017
Corey Kluber was placed on the 10-day DL after leaving Tuesday's start with lower back tightness:
Terry Francona says the Cleveland Indians won't push Corey Kluber into quick return from DL https://t.co/GiAR2HPjjE— paul hoynes (@hoynsie) May 4, 2017
Finally, Ian Kinsler left Wednesday's game with a hamstring injury and will be re-evaluated Thursday, and Noah Syndergaard will seek a second opinion following reports he could be out up to three months.
Plays of the day. Long live Ichiro!
If you don't have a plan, invent a plan. This was one of the more interesting relief appearances of the season: Dusty Baker left in Jacob Turner to throw the final four innings of the Nationals' 2-1 victory over the Diamondbacks. Part of the reason was Shawn Kelley had been sick and unavailable the previous two games, but Baker also simply decided to stick with the hot hand rather than go with another reliever. Turner responded with four scoreless innings, working around a two-out double in the ninth, with no walks and four strikeouts.
Find someone who believes in you as much as Dusty Baker believes in Jacob Turner.— Grant Brisbee (@mccoveychron) May 4, 2017
It seems like Turner has been around forever, but he doesn't turn 26 until later this month. A former top-25 overall prospect in the game, Turner reached the majors with the Tigers in 2011, when he was just 20 years old, but he was traded in 2012 as part of the Anibal Sanchez deal. He was traded to the Cubs, claimed by the White Sox on waivers and signed with the Nationals this offseason as a free agent. He has never had much success in the majors, including one brutal effort last July with the White Sox when he threw 101 pitches in just 3⅓ innings. The Nationals had announced Tuesday that Turner would take Joe Ross' spot in the rotation after Ross was sent down, but after throwing 54 pitches, the Nats will need another starter now for Saturday.
Aaron Judge is an unstoppable force of baseball-smashing nature. I have nothing to add about his 13th home run, which helped the Yankees beat the Blue Jays 8-6 and improve to 17-9, except all these wonderful Judge factoids from ESPN Stats & Information:
Yankees are 11-0 when Judge homers.
He leads the majors with six home runs of 425-plus feet.
He has the most home runs in a player's first 25 games of a season in Yankees history: Alex Rodriguez, 14 (2007); Judge, 13 (2017); Glenallen Hill, 12 (2000); Babe Ruth, 12 (1921).
The Feud. Kevin Gausman hit Xander Bogaerts with a 77 mph curveball and was ejected in the second inning. There were no warnings issued before the game, so bad job there by the plate umpire, Sam Holbrook. Last word to Orioles GM Dan Duquette:
Dan Duquette on what has been transpiring here: pic.twitter.com/Bqouzx7NT9— Jon Meoli (@JonMeoli) May 3, 2017