Mike Napoli, bats searching for consistency

July, 6, 2012
7/06/12
11:19
PM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas – Texas Rangers catcher and first baseman Mike Napoli said he’s trying not to get too frustrated about his offensive rut, one that has him batting .230 on the season and unable to get a big hit with runners in scoring position right now.

He doesn’t take much solace in the fact that he’s not alone.

It’s a nearly team-wide funk right now with the bats as the Rangers have been unable to consistently move runners home from third base with one out, collect clutch hits when it matters most with runners in scoring position or produce hits in bunches to pile on runs. The result is a five-game losing streak, which included a 5-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Friday. It's the club’s first since last June.

Texas scored the lone run on six hits and despite six walks and having at least one runner on base in each of the first seven innings. The club couldn't do much damage against left-handed pitcher Francisco Liriano and the Twins bullpen.

“That’s why things are at its worse because it’s throughout the whole lineup,” Washington said. “If we had three or four guys who were getting it done, it might not be so bad. We could put some runs on the board.

“We’re leaving runners out there. We’re just not sustaining. But you go through it and we’re just going to fight. That’s all we can do. We’ve still got a lot of baseball left. We’re certainly not playing the way we want to play, but we’re going to show up (Saturday) and we’re going to battle again and hope that things go in our favor. We’ll keep working.”

Napoli says he’s trying to do that, too. The veteran, who had one of the hottest second halves in big league history last year, continues to cool off at the plate. He was 0-for-3 with a walk Friday and had three chances to drive in a runner from second but couldn’t do it. He grounded out in the first with Nelson Cruz at second and one out. He struck out with two on and one out in the fourth and then bounced into a double play with runners at first and second in the sixth.

“I know I’m not playing to my ability,” Napoli said. “I’m getting out there and trying to give a tough at-bat every time. That’s all I can do is go in there and compete. I’m just not getting it done right now.”

It isn’t for lack of effort. Napoli said he’s working with hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh in the cages and trying to find his timing.

“I don’t think I’m overdoing it,” Napoli said. “I’m working every day. I’m just trying to find it. I’m trying to get in a good hitter’s position and be able to see the ball. I’m just not really seeing it too well.”

It seems that in the last five games, few of the Rangers’ hitters are seeing it well. The club is 6-for-30 (.200) with runners in scoring position during the five-game losing streak. The Rangers haven’t executed the little things, like moving runners over or scoring them from third with less than two outs.

“I’ve never seen them this inconsistent,” Washington said prior to Friday’s game. “(It’s) just some guys right now are not at their best, that’s all it is. If we knew, we’d be fixing it. All we can do is stay the course, work on the things we feel we need to work on and hope it transfers into the game.”

Washington mentioned not getting runners home consistently from third base with less than two outs. Going into Friday’s game, the Rangers were hitting .315 in those situations (13th in MLB) and had 83.5 RBIs per 100 at-bats (9th). Last year, the club hit .360 and drove in 91.7 runs per 100 at-bats, both top-5 in the majors.

“We work in situations every day in batting practice,” Coolbaugh said. “We give the hitters situations like infield in or runner at third and one out and work on that. Those are important facets of the game. They are well aware, but we’re gone through that period where the consistency of doing that hasn’t been very good, but it’s something we’ve addressed. We’ll continue to work on it.”

The club has especially struggled against left-handers this month. Lefties are 4-0 with a 1.94 ERA against the Rangers in July.

Josh Hamilton, who hit just over .200 in June after blistering the ball in April and May, is confident the club will get things together.

"We come in and do our work and just play the game and what happens, happens,” Hamilton said. “Nobody’s hitting the panic button. We’ve got two more games until the All-Star break and hopefully we can take these two and get some rest and come back energized for the second half.”
Richard Durrett joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He writes about colleges, the Dallas Stars and the Texas Rangers. Richard spent nine years at The Dallas Morning News covering the Rangers, Stars, colleges, motorsports and high schools.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Martin Perez
WINS ERA SO IP
3 1.86 20 29
OTHER LEADERS
BAL. Martin .315
HRR. Chirinos 2
RBIL. Martin 9
RE. Andrus 11
OPSS. Choo .827
ERAY. Darvish 0.82
SOY. Darvish 23