Saturday, June 23, 2012
Offense has big inning but wastes chances
By Richard Durrett
ARLINGTON, Texas -- At first glance, you might think the Texas Rangers offense finally got something going Saturday. And to some degree, that's true. They batted around in the fifth inning and scored six runs thanks to five consecutive two-out hits.
But in an 11-7 game, that same offense had chances to inch even closer by executing with one out and a runner at third and couldn't do it. Three times the Rangers had a runner at third base with one out and the Rockies playing back in the infield to concede a run. And all three times, some of the club's big hitters couldn't get the run home.
Yorvit Torrealba's sacrifice bunt in the second inning moved Nelson Cruz to third and Mike Napoli to second. But Craig Gentry, playing on a balky ankle, popped up and Ian Kinsler struck out. In the sixth, one inning after climbing back from an 11-1 deficit to make it an 11-7 game, Kinsler got to third on Elvis Andrus' ground ball, bringing up Josh Hamilton. The slugger struck out and Adrian Beltre grounded out to third to end the threat. The next inning, Michael Young's double and Cruz's fly ball put Young at third. Mike Napoli and Torrealba both struck out, leaving Young stranded at third base.
"We had some chances to chip away there and couldn't do it," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
It's still an offense that hasn't clicked. The Rangers have won 10 of their last 12, but the starting pitching has helped carry them. A handful of the club's top hitters have slumped at the same time, including Hamilton. After starting the season at a ridiculous pace, Hamilton is hitting .191 with one homer and seven RBIs in June, though he missed four games with an intestinal virus. During the club's run of winning 10 of 12, Young is batting .195. Napoli has a .129 average in that span.
Washington said he believes Hamilton will get things going again soon if he can stay patient and not try to do too much. That's not an easy thing for an aggressive hitter like Hamilton, the 2010 AL MVP.
"I think every hitter goes through a sputtering point and he's going through that right now," hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh said. "He's never been a patient hitter. That's one of those things that he would like to do from a personal standpoint. He's always been one to go up there a swing. It's what he does after the first strike. His at-bats have not been as efficient after one strike in the last couple of weeks. Right now, the at-bats aren't extended, they are quick outs and consequently he's getting some strikeouts."
Coolbaugh is careful to note the positives, too. Young hit several balls to right field Saturday, something he does when he's playing well and feeling comfortable. Nelson Cruz appears to be coming out of his slump with two home runs and his third multi-hit performance in his last four games. And Napoli had two hits and is entering the time of year where he normally comes to life. Don't forget that Beltre continues to pound the ball from the cleanup spot. And Coolbaugh, while disappointed in the club's inabilty to score the runner from third, stresses to keep earning those chances.
"We did create the opportunites and that's the positive I take from it," Coolbaugh said. "We had men on second base and we moved them over three times. We created the situations to get them in, we just didn't get them in. We had some big two-out hits too. You take the positive and the negative. Sure, we'd like to get them in all the time, but at least we were creating those opportunities the right way."