There is one game left in the grueling start of the season

ATLANTA – You know what the best news of the season’s first month could be for the Rangers: No one in the AL West is terribly hot, either.

So even when the Rangers lost 5-2 to Atlanta on Saturday and fell to .500 for the third time this week, they remained in first place in the division. Seattle, the only AL West team to win Saturday, is 10-10 to the Rangers’ 11-11.

And think about this, even though there are still 140 games to go: Statistically, the Rangers have endured one of the toughest stretches of the schedule to start the season of any team in the Majors. According to, the official site for all your fueling needs (I may have made up the slogan myself), the Rangers have the third “easiest” rest of the schedule in the majors. Maybe we shouldn’t mention that Seattle, which comes to Arlington on Tuesday, has the “easiest.” Yeah, I shouldn’t have mentioned it.

Bruce Bochy, Rangers once again left without an answer for the Travis d’Arnaud-led Braves

The point is, even with a number of injuries and a grueling stretch early in the season, the Rangers haven’t fallen significantly behind in the division. Since no one else got off to a flying start, they actually didn’t fall behind at all.

If the Rangers can win on Sunday, they’ll salvage a .500 record on their 10-game road trip and end their 17-game streak without a day off at 8-9. It’s survival, which is the goal right now.

So, while you think about that, here are a few VERY IMPORTANT final thoughts:

Longest waiting time: The wait continues for Wyatt Langford, who has 20 games left in his Major League career. It’s now 89 plate appearances and 79 plate appearances in those 20 games. It is the most at-bats in the first twenty games of a Rangers career without a home run and tied with Ryan Rua in 2014 for most at-bats.

Perhaps the most troubling development Saturday: Langford struckout three batters. It is the first three-strikeout game of his young career. There will be more.

One thing the Rangers would like to see more of from Langford is a willingness to attack the first pitch when it’s in the strike zone. This year, he has swung the first pitch in an at-bat just 4.9% of the time; it is the 23rd lowest rate in the majors. The Rangers don’t want him to get too worried, but think there might be some opportunity to capitalize on some fastballs on the first pitch.

Best Pest: You see Jon Gray going into a game, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Michael Harris strikes out consecutive strikes to escape, then works another 1-2-3 inning, it’s hard not to get a little excited about Gray’s possibilities in a relief role. That won’t happen right away, not with the Rangers currently short on starters and relievers. But it’s enticing, and it’s not hard to imagine a bullpen with Gray as a multi-inning weapon when and if Max Scherzer, Tyler Mahle and Jacob deGrom return.

Worst sign: The Rangers pinch hit for Evan Carter against left-hander AJ Minter late in the game. Carter is 0 of 20 in his career (1 of 30 if you include postseason) against lefties. It is a very small sample size. And look, if lefties sit, it will be against lefties, like Carter did Friday when the Braves drafted Chris Sale.

But this is a cornerstone player. Pinch-hitting should not become a habit for him.

Worst Stat: Nathan Eovaldi walked six batters for the second time in his career and the first since 2012. Even worse, when you factor in the two hit batters he was charged with, Eovaldi allowed eight free bases in his career. He spent some time in his locker and then engaged in verbal self-flagellation.

As bad as that was, it was the larger image metric that stood out. The Rangers have now walked 90 of the 832 batters they have faced, a walk rate of 10.8%. It’s currently third-worst in the majors. That is, to quote Wyatt Langford’s walk-up music, Flirtin’ with Disaster. At least we got a Molly Hatchet reference in. See that as the silver lining here in this thought.

Worst long-term future: Austin Pruitt allowed the two-run homer to Travis d’Arnaud on Friday. He has allowed three home runs in 4.1 innings and has an ERA of 12.46. As much as the Rangers like his work ethic and his approach, it’s hard to see a fit for him if Josh Sborz returns from the IL.

He pitched on consecutive days and gave up runs, meaning he won’t be an option for the club in Sunday’s road trip finale. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Rangers activate Jonathan Hernández on Sunday. Why? He is the only guy on the 40-man roster healthy enough to pitch and eligible. The Rangers were able to stay away from Jose Leclerc, David Robertson and Kirby Yates on Saturday, so they should have weapons to finish the road trip.

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