Club's 2-3-4 hitters mired in deep freeze
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers are proving their batting order leaves little room for opposing pitcher's to relax.
Despite getting next-to-nothing from their Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters, Texas seeks its fifth consecutive playoff victory and a commanding 2-0 lead in the ALCS this afternoon against the Detroit Tigers.
Elvis Andrus, Josh Hamilton and Michael Young are a combined 8-for-55 for a .145 average in the postseason. They've produced no home runs, have struck out eight times and only Hamilton has driven in any runs -- two. They have one extra-base hit between them, a double from Hamilton. At least they've manage to draw six walks.
Andrus is batting .111 (2-for-19), Hamilton is sitting at .211 (4-for-19) and Young is also slumping at .111 (2-for-18).
In Saturday's 3-2 win in Game 1, the threesome went a combined 0-for-11 with a walk and three strikeouts even as Tigers ace Justin Verlander struggled with his command.
Young, a contender for the American League batting title to the end, finished the regular season with a career-best .338 average and 106 RBIs. His postseason swoon, however, is a continuation from last October when he hit just .254 after an exceedingly cold start.
Same goes for Hamilton. One of the most feared power hitters in the game, the 2010 AL MVP hovered around .300 all season and finished batting .298 with 25 home runs and 94 RBIs. Yet, his .211 postseason average through five games is actually slightly higher than the .190 he posted through last year's 16 postseason games. Andrus flourished last postseason, posting a .294 average with eight stolen bases.
Manager Ron Washington said those numbers do not keep him up at night.
"No, that's why you have nine guys in a lineup and that's why you have 25 on the roster," Washington said. "At this point of the year, you are facing the best that the league has to offer. And as I always said, good pitching will stop hitting. You try not to have that good pitching stop every hitting possibility you have throughout your lineup. Right now other guys are picking it up."
That the Rangers have won four of five playoff games is a testament to the just-good-enough starting pitching they've received mixed with a dominant bullpen, and timely hitting from other spots in a lineup.
In Game 1 Saturday, Nelson Cruz provided the winning margin with a solo home run in the fourth inning. That was good sign because it was just his second hit of the playoffs as he's been unable to escape the seventh spot in the order since moved down late in the season. David Murphy dinged Verlander with a deep triple to the right-center field gap for a 1-0 lead in the second inning.
The trio doing the damage is not exactly an unheralded group. Catcher Mike Napoli continues to be dangerous with six hits in 17 at-bats (.353), including a homer and four RBIs. Napoli, third baseman Adrian Beltre (.263) and second baseman Ian Kinsler (.263) each have four RBIs and have accounted for 12 of the team's 18 postseason RBIs.
"As long as we can go out there and our pitching can keep us in ballgames and we can catch the ball and we can give ourselves an opportunity to be in the ballgame when the ninth inning rolls around," Washington said, "it only takes one hit and it doesn't matter who gets it."
Perhaps the Rangers' depth can continue to come through with timely production, but it would certainly help the cause if the their top-of-the-lineup hitters also joined the party.
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