Two of the worst teams in the majors square off Tuesday night when the Texas Rangers visit the Arizona Diamondbacks in the opening contest of a two-game series in Phoenix.
The Rangers (19-35) own the worst record in the American League, while the Diamondbacks (20-34) are ahead of only the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League.
Both clubs got off to promising starts before unraveling.
Arizona was 13-11 before heading in the other direction and has since lost 23 of 30 games.
Texas can tell a similar tale as a 10-9 beginning has been followed up with setbacks in 26 of 35 games.
It was suggested to Rangers manager Chris Woodward on Monday that more losses would improve next year’s draft position.
Not surprisingly, that wasn’t a topic that was pleasing to Woodward’s ears.
“I want to win every game,” Woodward told reporters prior to the 8-5 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. “I’m too competitive. It kills me that our guys — it’s heartbreaking — sometimes when you don’t win games when we play well. They’ve put so much work in. To win (Sunday) felt good. I felt good for these guys.
“At no point am I ever going to think about losing a game or trying to lose a game. But, yes, it’s definitely in the back of your mind when you step outside of the game. But, yeah, I hope we win the last (six) games and screw that all up.”
Part of the reason for the Diamondbacks’ decline can be pinpointed to the fact that prized free-agent acquisition Madison Bumgarner hasn’t won a single game.
The left-hander has been limited to eight starts due to a back issue and is just 0-4 with a 7.36 ERA. But there was a lot of happiness after Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Houston Astros due to Bumgarner’s performance.
The 31-year-old struck out a season-high seven and gave up two hits in five scoreless innings before departing. He had allowed eight runs and 13 hits over 5 1/3 innings against the Los Angeles Angels in his previous turn.
“That was a real, real encouraging sign,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. “I know speaking to him for a couple minutes after the outing, he was real encouraged by the results. Really, ultimately, we know what a competitor he is, we know what his expectations are.”
The Diamondbacks’ player most getting it done recently is veteran outfielder Kole Calhoun, who was named National League Player of the Week for his stellar performance. Calhoun recorded a pair of two-homer games and slammed six overall to go with 12 RBIs. He batted .458 (11-for-24) with a 1.250 slugging percentage over six games.
The hot stretch saw Calhoun raise his season average from .196 to .233.
Rangers right-hander Jordan Lyles (1-5, 7.07 ERA) will attempt to keep Calhoun in the ballpark. Calhoun is 0-for-2 against Lyles.
The 29-year-old Lyles is winless since beating the Angels on Aug. 7. He pitched well against the Houston Astros on Thursday when he allowed two runs and three hits over seven innings in a no-decision.
Lyles pitched two innings of scoreless relief against Arizona on July 28. He is 3-7 with a 6.45 ERA in 22 career appearances (11 starts) versus the Diamondbacks.
Left-hander Caleb Smith (0-0, 4.50) will make his third start for Arizona since being acquired from the Miami Marlins at the trading deadline. Smith pitched just five innings in his two outings for the Diamondbacks, allowing three runs and four hits.
Smith, 29, is still building up endurance after a positive COVID-19 test in late July while with the Marlins.
In two career appearances against Texas, Smith has allowed four runs and three hits in one inning (36.00 ERA).
Smith will face a Texas club that slugged nine homers in its past three games. Derek Dietrich and Isiah Kiner-Falefa both went deep in Monday’s loss. Dietrich has homered in back-to-back games and in three straight starts.
–Field Level Media