What happened Friday night at Minute Maid Park hadn’t happened this month to the Texas Rangers.
Yes, they’ve lost this month. Six times entering Saturday. The Houston Astros’ 10-4 win Friday sent the Rangers to their fourth straight loss.
What made it unique, though, was the wide final margin. It was the first game the Rangers played this month in which they weren’t competitive, and just their third contest that was decided by more than two runs.
The other two were Rangers wins.
The Rangers have been playing close games — not just this month, but this season — with few exceptions. It’s safe to say that this rebuilding Rangers team knows how to compete.
The next step is learning how to win.
That will not easy, nor will it come quick.
“This is what I tell these guys a lot: Winning a major-league game is not going to magically happen. Nobody’s going to hand anything to you. You have to earn every every win, you have to earn every hit, every out you get,” manager Chris Woodward said. “So learning how to succeed in big moments, learning how to succeed when you turn those moments that are you feel like are huge as a younger player, they’re not that big.”
The Rangers entered Saturday at 18-22 and with a negative-15 run differential. Their widest margin in a loss came six weeks ago, in their second game of the season, an 11-4 loss in Kansas City in which they led 4-3 after five innings.
Houston led throughout Friday, scoring three in the second inning and four in the third for a 7-1 lead. Rangers pitchers walked eight, two of those with the bases leaded.
“Yesterday was one of our worst games all around,” Woodward said.
Those happen to the best of teams, but the best are able to move on quickly or put an end to a losing streak. The best teams, of course, have veteran players who have gone through what the Rangers’ youngsters are going through now.
Every pitch, at-bat and defensive play help the Rangers gain experience. Many players, especially in the bullpen, have to learn how to shrink the magnitude of what feels like critical moment in a game.
“The more at-bats you get, the more experiences you get, the better you’ll be,” outfielder David Dahl said. “As a younger player, you’ve just got to enjoy those moments and let them take care of themselves. Don’t try to do too much.”
Catcher Jose Trevino said the Rangers have already cleared on hurdle toward winning the close ones: fear. Players who might have been intimidated by a close score have moved past that.
Rather than playing to not lose, the Rangers are playing to win. Learning how to win, the next step in the rebuild, is in progress.
“We’re comfortable in those games now,” Trevino said. “In the past, it was like, ‘Oh, man, let’s not mess this up. Let’s not lose this game.’ Now, there’s no panic. The more we keep getting in the close games, the more comfortable we’re going to be. That’s a good step going forward to becoming a winning baseball team.”