Thursday, August 25, 2011
Offense nosedives in third straight loss
By Jeff Caplan
ARLINGTON, Texas -- A Michael Young line-drive single in the second inning. An Ian Kinsler infield hit in the third. A Nelson Cruz single between short and third in the seventh.
That was it for the Texas Rangers at the plate in Thursday's 6-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox.
Boston lefty Andrew Miller lowered his 4.99 ERA by half-a-point after pitching 6 1/3 scoreless innings. It was his longest outing in more than two years. He struck out six Rangers and allowed one runner beyond second base. If you hadn't heard of Miller in this 10th start of the season, perhaps you have heard of the next pitcher this slumping Rangers lineup will face Friday night, the Los Angeles Angels' Dan Haren.
Yes, the Rangers aren't getting quality starting pitching -- just two "quality starts" in the last eight games -- but the offense has disappeared with it. The Red Sox took the final three games of the four-game set by a combined 30-7 score, handing the Rangers their longest home losing skid in more than a year. It also whittled the Rangers' shrinking lead in the American League West to just two games as the idle Angels were probably watching it unfold from their Arlington hotel room.
"Well, the thing was," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of the Red Sox, "they whipped our butt for three days. We couldn't pitch to stop them and we couldn't get anything going offensively."
The futility included an o-for-4 night including three consecutive strikeouts by Josh Hamilton that dipped his average below .300 for the first time in nearly a month. Nelson Cruz managed a ground-ball single in four at-bats. Red-hot Mike Napoli struck out in all three of his at-bats and catcher Yorvit Torrealba was also 0-for-3.
Falling behind by six runs in each of the last three games doesn't bode well for an offense that has been shutout in two of the last five games. Thursday's three hits marked the eighth consecutive time that the Rangers had eight or fewer hits which is the longest such drought in the last two seasons. They're 2-6 in that span which includes an overall batting average of .197 (51-for-259) and a ghastly .163 (7-for-43) with runners in scoring position.
The Rangers threatened Miller really only once. Omar Quintanilla reached on an error to lead off the sixth and Ian Kinsler walked to put two men on for only the second time in the game. Elvis Andrus grounded into a fielder's choice and then with runners at the corners was gunned down trying to steal second as Josh Hamilton fanned for strike three.
Two Boston relievers did not allow a hit in 2 2/3 innings.
"We've scored before when we're behind, we've scored when we've had to tack on runs when we're ahead," said Young, who led off the second with a single but was set down his next three trips to the plate. "We know how to do it no matter what the situation is, no matter how many runs the other team has and no matter how many runs we have. We know how to score runs, it just hasn't happened the last few games."
The streaking Angels are next up starting Friday night with Haren, who brings an ERA under 3.00. Manager Mike Scioscia is threatening to make a bold move by going to red-hot Ervin Santana and then ace Jered Weaver, who has pitched two gems against Texas this season, both on three days' rest.
"I'm not really worried about what they're doing with their rotation," Kinsler said. "I say it over and over again, we're not worried about the Angels, we're worried about ourselves. If they want to bring a guy back on two days' rest or five days, I don't really care. It's none of my concern. My concern is this team."