ARLINGTON, Texas -- With one eye on creatively using the bullpen to get a pitcher deeper into Friday's game, the Texas Rangers removed their starter by the second inning because everything was going according to plan
The Cardinals did the same because nothing was.
The Cardinals' pothole-strewn road to .500 stretched on Friday as the Rangers blistered Miles Mikolas for seven runs in the second inning and swaggered off to a 7-3 interleague victory at Globe Life Park. The Rangers hit two home runs and sent 13 batters to the plate in the second inning to quickly send the Cardinals toward their 12th loss in their past 15 games. The May descent already meant changes for the bullpen Friday and should inspire more through the coming days -- the meandering lineup or to the inconsistent rotation.
The Cardinals (23-22) haven't been this close to .500 since April 19.
Mikolas, a former Ranger back in Texas for the first time since reinventing himself as an All-Star, had allowed four runs before he got his first out of the second inning. Roughned Odor ragged him for a three-run homer, and three batters later leadoff hitter Shin-Soo Choo had a two-run homer that catapulted Texas toward a 7-0 lead before Mikolas was removed from the game and left reliever Giovanny Gallegos to sidestep a bases-loaded mess. The Rangers' seven runs in one inning was a season high for the team, and their eight hits are the most a Texas lineup had in a single sinning since April 2016.
It was just more of the same for the Cardinals on the road.
The Cardinals' lineup has averaged slightly less than five runs a game on the road -- which isn't shabby until it's revealed that the pitchers have allowed more than five earned runs on the road. Through the first 21 road games this season, the Cardinals' pitchers had an ERA that was the worst in the National League (5.10) outside of the worst team in the National League, Miami (5.28). With Mikolas' dud Friday, the rotation's ERA on the road mushroomed to 6.17 through 108 innings.
Through 21 games last season, the rotation had a 3.30 ERA.
The unreliable rotation -- which is less than a week removed from its first stretch of four consecutive quality starts -- has left the bullpen and the lineup to carry the team, even as the Cardinals won 20 of their first 30 games. The bullpen got an infusion of power Friday with the returns of Carlos Martinez and Ryan Helsley and expulsion for veterans Dominic Leone and Luke Gregerson. Cardinals manager Mike Shildt has acknowledged internal discussions about altering the look of the lineup. The access this weekend to the designated hitter at the American League ballpark gives Shildt the chance to start Jose Martinez and Harrison Bader, just as it could offer the nudge to rethink the top of the order. Through seven innings Friday, Matt Carpenter, Paul Goldschmidt, and Paul DeJong -- the top three batters in the Cardinals' lineup -- had combined to go 2 for 11.
Carpenter continues to see his average loiter around .200 even as he went 1 for 4 with a single Friday.