Bad offensive night leads to team meeting
ARLINGTON, Texas – No one is more frustrated by the current state of the Texas Rangers offense than the Rangers themselves.
That was apparent after Saturday night's 5-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox as the club had a team meeting for the offensive players.
It's the kind of meeting that follows a night in which the club went 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position. Texas is just 1 for 21 with runners in scoring position in the series and 25 for its last 134 (.187 average) in the last 16 games. The Rangers have also scored just 68 runs this month, the fewest in the American League.
The Rangers, who assured themselves their first losing July since 2006, lead the West by just 3 ½ games. It's the smallest the lead has been since it was three following a June 14 loss to Arizona.
"The biggest thing is playing our style of baseball," said Michael Young, who tripled to lead off the bottom of the seventh but didn't score. "Making sure that offensively we're doing the things we're accustomed to doing. I think it's time we get back to that. The mentality of this team has always been very blue collar and I expect that we'll rely on that right now."
The focus of the meeting was to forget about the past offensive struggles and to relax at the plate. The club was anything but relaxed Saturday against Philip Humber, who came into the game with a 6.25 ERA.
The Rangers had just five hits but left runners in scoring position in the first, third, fourth, fifth and seventh innings. While Matt Harrison (five earned runs in seven innings) wasn't up to his All-Star standards, the Rangers had their chances to make the game interesting.
It never happened despite the club shaking up the lineup. Josh Hamilton, who is slumping, was given the night off and the Rangers moved Adrian Beltre to the No. 3 spot and batted Nelson Cruz cleanup. The shakeup didn't help things as the only runs Texas scored came on a Mike Napoli homer to lead off the fifth inning and a Napoli groundout in the ninth.
Harrison allowed two runs in the fourth and three more in the fifth. Following Napoli's leadoff homer in the fifth, Leonys Martin doubled to give the Rangers some life. Martin moved to third with one out but Ian Kinsler struck out and Elvis Andrus grounded out.
The seventh was worse as Napoli followed Young's leadoff triple with a walk. With a fly ball or well-placed grounder all the club needing to get a little spark going, the Rangers instead got strikeouts form Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry followed by a flyball from Ian Kinsler to end the inning.
That's not exactly the kind of production fans have become accustomed to seeing the last couple of years. The last time the Rangers were worse than 0 for 13 with RISP in a game was May 13, 1997 against Cleveland. They went 0 for 14 in that game.
"If it was one specific problem I'd do something to try and fix it," said hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh, who was not in the meeting. "It's to the point where we're not having good at-bats. Tonight we had men at third and we had three good contact guys up and they all struck out. An eight-pitch at-bat by Ian and he struck out. A seven-pitch at-bat by Martin and he struck out. It's not like they're up there not battling. We're just not getting the job done right now. I don't know what it is right now."
Texas manager Ron Washington said he didn't think his team was pressing. But they aren't producing.
"That just tells you that if we start swinging the bat with some runners in scoring position we can turn this thing around," Washington said. "That's what's killing us right now. We're just not hitting with runners on. We're just not getting it done, that's all."
Harrison, who lost consecutive starts for just the second time this season, didn't allow a hit until the fourth inning. Adam Dunn's one-out single brought up Paul Konerko, who lashed the first pitch he saw 416 feet into the stands in left. The homer hurt Harrison again in the fifth, with Adam Dunn hitting a two-run homer to center.
Five runs against the Texas offense normally isn't that big of a hill to climb. But these aren't normal times for the Texas offense.
"Offensively we want to be the best in the game," said Kinsler, who went 0 for 4 but did reach on an error and steal a base. "When we're not the best in the game we feel like there's something wrong regardless if we're winning or not. We're going to keep working. We're going to continue to try and get back to where we want to be."