ARLINGTON — The Rangers have made tremendous strides between 2021 and ’22, there’s no denying that. When everything goes right, Texas — now armed with its fair share of All-Stars — can compete with the best teams in the league.
But they are still not a team that can afford little mistakes. And when those little mistakes happen while hanging onto a three-run lead in the eighth inning, they’re amplified even more.
With runners at the corners and no outs, a sequence including one mental mistake by shortstop Corey Seager and an error by Ezequiel Duran scored a run, setting up a go-ahead, two-run homer off Rangers reliever John King as the Rangers eventually fell, 4-3, to the Astros to even the series.
“I think we can [overcome errors],” said Rangers manager Chris Woodward. “I just think we haven’t been early on. I wouldn’t say our margin for error in games is smaller. It’s bigger than it was in the past couple years.”
Even so, the miscues led to the Astros’ big four-run eighth inning that put them ahead for good. It began with Seager, who opted to throw home with runners on the corners instead of turning the double play. Jose Altuve was caught in a rundown between third base and home.
The throw from Rangers catcher Sam Huff ricocheted off the glove of third baseman Duran, allowing Altuve to score and leaving runners at second and third with no outs. Woodward said the throw was slightly hard and high, but Duran should have also been able to secure the baseball.
Woodward said he talked to Seager between innings and while he credited the shortstop’s aggressiveness, he noted that he should have turned the double play to put the Rangers in a better position to end the inning.
“Hindsight is 2020,” Woodward said. “Seager is being aggressive. He’s trying to make a play. It’s hard to fault him for that. To his defense, he’s trying to make a play, trying to prevent a run. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for us, but we’ve still got to execute the [rundown] and get an out.”
And while the eighth-inning rundown sticks out in a loss like that, Woodward was quick to point out that it was a culmination of several factors that led to the loss.
King, who was booted from the mound after just nine pitches in the eighth, needed to execute better. Woodward said he probably only made two mistakes, but they were both costly — a cutter down the middle to Altuve for a leadoff single and a hanging slider to Tucker for the homer.
The Rangers’ offense also didn’t score any runs after the fourth inning, when Nathaniel Lowe’s two-run homer gave them a three-run lead at the time. Texas went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position, stranding four on base.
“We had chances to score other runs, don’t forget,” Woodward said. “We had our chances to add [to the lead]. That proved costly to be up by one, and you give up a two-run homer. I think our ability to continue to pile runs on is going to separate us from being able to make mistakes or not.
“We’ve got to play clean baseball every night. We have the ability to do that. We have the personnel to do that. But that play tonight obviously set the stage for what happened right after that.”