Bats waste solid Yu Darvish start (again)

Yu Darvish saw another stellar effort go by the boards as the Rangers were shut out Friday. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers can’t afford to lose Yu Darvish starts.

Not when he’s the only pitcher still in this rotation who was penciled into it before the injury plague began to decimate the staff just prior to spring training. And certainly not when he goes eight innings, allows just two runs and strikes out 11.

It was another good Darvish start void of run support.

On Friday, he didn’t allow a hit until the fifth, didn't allow a run until the eighth. But Melky Cabrera’s two-run double gave the Toronto Blue Jays a 2-0 lead that felt like 6-0. Even a leadoff infield single in the ninth did little to stir a comeback as the Rangers have now fallen six games behind the Oakland A’s in the American League West.

Don't blame Canada, blame the bats.

“We’re not scoring runs and we’re not putting a lot together as a group,” manager Ron Washington said. “That’s it in a nutshell.”

Yep. And there were no answers in a quiet clubhouse after the team was shut out for the third time this season.

It wasn’t a patient effort Friday, as many players tried to attack Drew Hutchison early in counts, hoping to catch something. Instead, he baffled the Rangers bats, allowing three hits in the first complete game of his career.

Hutchison was very solid. There’s no doubt. But he came in with a 4.37 ERA. Too often, this offense has helped make pitchers with marginal numbers look like All-Star hopefuls. Friday’s loss was the second-fewest pitches the offense has seen all season. In other words: They hit into quick outs and didn’t make Hutchison work.

Maybe trying to get more aggressive wasn’t a bad idea in an effort to generate a spark. But it didn’t work against Hutchison on Friday, leading to a fast loss and one runner -- one -- getting to third base.

“Obviously, we’re not where we want to be,” outfielder Alex Rios said. “This is an offense capable of doing a lot of damage. We haven’t gotten there yet, but as far as I can see we are all very positive and still believe that we can do some damage. But it’s a little frustrating not to see the real power of our offense. But what can you do? We have to stay positive.”

This offense just isn’t generating any momentum. It isn’t stringing hits together, capitalizing in the clutch enough or showing any power. Despite an average that was third in the AL coming in, the rest of the key offensive stats rate near the bottom of the league. Texas is 11th in runs scored and averaging slightly less than four per game. The slugging percentage and home runs are near the cellar as well.

Minor-league prospect Joey Gallo hit three home runs for Class A Myrtle Beach on Friday. The Rangers haven't had a three-homer game as a team this season. Elvis Andrus came up with a runner in scoring position and two out in a 0-0 game and grounded out. He's now 1-for-29 with runners in scoring position this season. That lone hit came April 5. Shin-Soo Choo, one of the club's best hitters for much of the season, is mired in a slump, going 5-for-36 in his past nine games.

This was not the plan when the club forked over a seventh year and $130 million for Choo and sent Ian Kinsler to Detroit to take on seven years of Prince Fielder’s contract, some of which the Tigers are paying.

The idea was to make the lineup more powerful and consistent. So far, that hasn’t happened.

That’s not because of Choo and Fielder. It’s a collective problem and one that the club hasn’t been able to solve so far.

Washington can only do so much. He was asked about his options after the game and knows he doesn’t really have many.

“Do you want me to take the guys at the bottom and put them at the top and the guys at the top and put them at the bottom?” Washington said. “The guys that I have in the position that they’re in, if they don’t get it done, we’re not going to get it done. It’s just that simple.”

He’s right, of course. The roster isn’t changing any time soon. The guys in the lineup have to produce -- and through nearly seven weeks of the season, that hasn’t happened. Combine that with the pitching injuries and it’s a team struggling to get on a roll.

“We’re not doing what we want to do, but we have to come out positive and play hard every day,” Fielder said. “The season doesn’t stop because adversity happens. Each day is a new day. We’ve got to play hard.”