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Monday, March 31, 2014
Even in loss, bats show signs of balance

By Richard Durrett

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Perhaps now is a good time to remind Texas Rangers fans that the season doesn’t end on Opening Day.

There are 161 more of these contests.

And if the Rangers get even half of the production they did from the lower half of the batting order that they did on Monday, they’ll find themselves in the win column a lot more.

"We’re not going to give up 14 runs very often," said reliever Jason Frasor, who had to watch the 14-10 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies unfold from the bullpen. "And I know we won’t score 10 every night, but we’re going to score a lot of runs. I can tell you that."

Maybe the most encouraging note about the offense’s 10 runs is that most of them were created and driven in by the bottom of the order. It wasn’t the high-priced bats of Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo that made the offense click on Monday.

In fact, both players combined to go 1-for-9 and were fairly quiet in the afternoon affair. And yet, the Rangers scored what should have been enough runs to win, if not for a clunker of a day by parts of the pitching staff.

Heck, the Rangers had won 63 straight games when scoring in double digits. That last time they didn’t before Monday, the club hadn’t even been to the World Series yet (2010). But the arms wouldn’t allow it on Opening Day.

Still, it’s only one game in a season full of them. And many of the Rangers' hitters -- and even a few pitchers -- were quick to point out that the bottom third of the order did more than its fair share, a sign that the Rangers’ lineup can achieve some balance.

"We need everybody in the lineup," Fielder said. "That’s how you get it done."

Catcher J.P. Arencibia, batting seventh, drew a second-inning walk that was key in a four-run rally in the frame that got the Rangers back in the game. It was also an extremely rare one. Arencibia, who struggled with the bat most of spring training, walked just 18 times last season in 138 games. Cliff Lee walked 32 batters the entire season. That’s 222⅔ innings, too.

Leonys Martin, whose swing improved as spring training ended, was 2-for-4 with two RBIs. That included run-scoring singles in the second and fifth, as the Rangers tried to mount a comeback.

But the offensive MVP -- in contention with Alex Rios, who hit a three-run homer to give the Rangers a brief, 7-6 lead -- was Josh Wilson. Give manager Ron Washington some kudos for that call, as he started Wilson in a surprise move after Donnie Murphy hit so well in the past few games after joining the Rangers. All Wilson did was go 2-for-3 with a bases-clearing double in the 9-hole.

So before you start overreacting to what was an awful day for the arms, remember that this lineup managed to pile up runs -- eight of them, in fact -- off one of the better pitchers in the game the past seven seasons in Lee. And it showed the ability to get some clutch hits even after falling behind 6-0 going into the bottom of the second.

Imagine what they can do when Choo and Fielder join in the action.

Yes, they need the pitching to tighten things up, but if this club can score runs on a steady basis -- something it didn’t do at times last season -- it'll have plenty of chances to win games and series.