ARLINGTON, Texas -- After a couple of dramatic comebacks, the Texas Rangers head to Tampa Bay with a series win and the hope of a solid start in spite of numerous injuries.
But a team can't live on ninth-inning rallies for an entire season. And that means finding a way to score first, and early, in more games. It was an issue for this team last season and was a big reason behind the additions of Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder to the top of the lineup.
The Rangers were 59-17 last season when they scored first. That was the second-best winning percentage in the league (Boston was first). But that means they scored first only 76 times, which was 10th in the American League. Part of the issue: an inability to score runs in the first inning. Texas scored 55 first-inning runs in 2013, last in all of baseball.
That was on the minds of the front-office personnel this offseason and was why they spent so much of the club's resources on the lineup, particularly at the top. And while Texas has won two of its first three games, it hasn't scored first in any of them. It also hasn't scored in the first inning in any, though the Rangers had a terrific opportunity Wednesday.
For eight innings, it looked like that wasted chance would cost them a game. Choo and Elvis Andrus got on base and, thanks to an errant throw, found themselves at second and third with none out. The Rangers, down 1-0, were a hit away from taking the lead. But Fielder took a swing at what would have been ball four, and Alex Rios and Mitch Moreland couldn't get hits and the rally stalled. It seemed to take the steam away from the game completely for the Rangers, at least until they found it again in the ninth.
As exciting as those comebacks are, they aren't a recipe for long-term success. This team needs to score early runs more often. It's something for the offense to work on as the Rangers hit the road for the first time in 2014.