Sunday, May 25, 2014
Will Tigers series be springboard for Texas?
By Richard Durrett
DETROIT -- There was obvious resolve from manager Ron Washington this weekend at Comerica Park. He talked a bunch about what the loss of Prince Fielder would mean for his Rangers team. And then, he quit talking about it.
So did his club. They were disappointed the slugger wouldn't be with them and upset by all the injuries, but dwelling on it wasn't part of the skipper's plan.
A reporter noted Washington's shallow bench and no-name group at the bottom of the order during a media session in his office. The manager's answer? "We're a submarine."
It's a Washington phrase that he doesn't even have to finish anymore. Those who have been around him a few years know what it means. He believes a team struggling, but fighting, can overcome. He likes the image of a submarine: You don't see it on the water anymore and you think it's forgotten, but it resurfaces just when you least expect it.
Perhaps this Rangers team is emerging from the depths despite long odds. The Rangers played better than the Tigers during a four-game set, taking three games in blowout fashion. A Texas offense that was struggling to find consistency hit .363 during the series and scored 35 runs. It had a whopping 20 extra-base hits. The middle of the order, which has to produce for this team to do anything, did so Sunday with Mitch Moreland, Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios collecting eight hits and driving in eight runs. Moreland is getting his shot in the 3-hole with Fielder out and took advantage of the chance Sunday.
The bottom of the order led the way Saturday and the young batters keep finding ways to get clutch hits. It's not just the bats, either. The staff had a 3.86 ERA during the four-game series and Nick Martinez showed maturity with his performance Saturday. Colby Lewis was able to grind out 5 2/3 innings Sunday and allow just two runs despite five walks.
"We've got guys in the lineup that the more they play, the better they'll play," Washington said. "We just want to keep getting better as the season goes on. Maybe the last five or six days is proving that."
Maybe so. This streak coincides with a team meeting called May 18 prior to the game at home with the Blue Jays. The Rangers were seven games back in the AL West and had lost six of seven. The team leaders called the meeting and tried to get everyone on the same page. Maybe it helped. Texas is 5-2 since then and is now five games back of the A's.
The Detroit series could serve as a catalyst for this team, which is starting to have some more fun. They poured beer all over Martinez for his first win and were clearly happy for the 23-year-old right-hander. Rougned Odor has added an element of excitement with his play and Dan Robertson, a relative unknown trying to fill in where he can, talked about badly wanting to stay around his teammates even after his face was beat up on an outfield collision with Rios earlier in the series.
"This team is jelling," Robertson said prior to Sunday's game. "You can see it. We can do something special."
They seem to be starting to believe it. The challenging is turning a productive series and a good week into a solid two- and three-week span. Doing that without Fielder and others in the lineup won't be easy. But a four-day trip to Detroit proves it's possible. The manager won't allow his team to think otherwise as the Rangers head to Minnesota.