In the aftermath of losing slugger Nelson Cruz to a 50-game suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, some suggested it couldn’t have happened at a worse time. Those folks apparently haven’t taken a look at the upcoming schedule.
The Rangers have been given the gift of a soft schedule in August that features 26 games against teams that currently have records below .500. Losing Cruz is certainly a blow to a team that has been remarkably dependent on the home-run ball, but it’s wrong to say all hope is lost.
The Rangers have spent the past couple of seasons trying to change their identity from a run-scoring monster to a pitching haven. The latter part always seemed like an impossible goal because of where the team plays its home games. But when you lose Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young in the same offseason, you have no choice but to find a different way to win. It’s stunning to see the Rangers ranked ninth in the A.L. in runs scored, but that’s unlikely to change in the near future.
On Monday night, the Rangers got their first taste of life without Cruz. They were fueled by an excellent performance by left-hander Martin Perez and clutch performances by relievers Jason Frasor and Neal Cotts. They also got a solo homer from Adrian Beltre and a fortunate triple from Elvis Andrus. The Rangers are 9-26 this season when they don’t have at least one homer. That has to change. With Cruz suspended, Beltre’s really the only home-run threat on a daily basis. Kinsler has been that guy in the past, but certainly not this season. David Murphy is capable of a hot streak in the power department, but time’s running out on his days in Arlington.
Fortunately, the Rangers’ pitching staff is now in position to resemble some of those Giants and Rays staffs from the past. When Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Matt Garza are at their best, they can be the best trio in the league. But another injury will forced Colby Lewis to miss the rest of the season. Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan talked about how tough the Rangers would be a short series. And if Perez can build on his past two starts, there’s no reason the Rangers can’t put a strong run together over the next 49 games. Keep in mind the Oakland A’s will face five teams with .500 records or better this month.
This is no time for the Rangers to sit around and feel sorry for themselves about Cruz’s suspension. They need to quickly get past the fact that Cruz decided not to fight the suspension. I’m told by people close to the situation that he was torn over the situation, but felt an immense amount of pressure from MLB, his agents and the players union to accept the suspension.
Now, the Rangers have to find a different way to win. They can’t replace Cruz’s power, but they can put a faster lineup on the field. With Engel Beltre and Craig Gentry receiving more playing time, the Rangers can do more damage on the basepaths. They can also cover more ground in the outfield, notwithstanding what happened with Murphy in right field Monday.
The Rangers suffered a huge loss Monday. But this is no time to wave the white flag.