ARLINGTON, Texas – Monday’s 9-2 loss to Oakland was a testament to just how fragile the Rangers’ pitching really is.
Josh Lindblom made his first appearance as a major league starter, in place of an injured Alexi Ogando, and scrambled for four innings before finally collapsing in the fifth.
Then the part of the Rangers’ bullpen not named Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers or Joe Nathan was given a chance to show what it could do. The results were not encouraging.
Joseph Ortiz allowed two runs in 1 1/3 innings, Cory Burns gave up two runs in two innings and Michael Kirkman was touched for another run in the ninth.
Yet it was Lindblom, who allowed four runs on seven hits, who was sent down to Triple-A Round Rock after the game.
“I thought for the first four [innings] he did a good job,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “He pitched around some trouble early, but then in that fifth he just started getting the ball up.”
Lindblom’s only previous major league experience was as a reliever in the National League. He gave up a leadoff homer to Seth Smith in the second and had just one 1-2-3 inning.
He started the fifth by giving up a double to Coco Crisp and then two more doubles to Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon Moss before being pulled after 88 pitches. The A’s scored four times in the fifth to take a 5-1 lead.
Lindblom said the reason he struggled was easy to diagnose.
“The fastball command. That’s kind of what my bread-and-butter is, being able to move my heater in and out,” Lindblom said. “I wasn’t able to command my heater and you talk to any pitcher, no matter where they’re at, everything comes off of that fastball command. “
The pitching story of the night was Oakland veteran Bartolo Colon, who improved to 19-7 against the Rangers to tie Bert Blyleven, Dennis Leonard and Jack Morris for the most wins against Texas.
Colon, now 14-2 in his last 18 starts against the Rangers, threw a strong seven innings and allowed just two runs.
“The same thing he always does,” Washington said. “His low cutter, sinker, slider, putting them in the right spot. We just couldn’t sustain anything against him tonight.”
The Rangers’ runs were both driven in by second baseman Jurickson Profar in his first start this season. Profar, called up to replace an injured Ian Kinsler, had an RBI ground-out and a sac-fly hitting in the No. 9 spot.
Profar, rated the No. 1 prospect in baseball, is expected to get a lot of work while Kinsler rehabs from a ribcage muscle strain.
“He handled his at-bats well tonight,” Washington said. “We scored two runs. He got both of them.”
The Rangers also sent catcher Robinson Chirinos down to Round Rock after the game. They will activate catcher A.J. Pierzynski in time for Tuesday’s start by Yu Darvish, as well as another unnamed player to assume Lindblom’s spot on the roster.
Barring the rapid return of one of the Rangers’ injured starters, it’s possible Lindblom could be back on the mound with the big league club in the near future.
“He’s just got to get the ball down,” Washington said. “He showed a good changeup tonight, showed a good breaking ball, showed some life on his fastball. Just in that fifth inning, I don’t know if he got a little tired, he just started elevating the ball.”