Commentary

Young's bat goes cold in postseason

Rangers cleanup hitter is just 3-for-27 with no RBIs in the playoffs as offense struggles

Updated: October 12, 2011, 2:48 AM ET
By Richard Durrett | ESPNDallas.com

DETROIT -- Michael Young led the Texas Rangers in RBIs during the 2011 regular season with 106. No one on the club -- and only a few in the league -- hit better than his .338 mark. When the Rangers needed a big hit, Young provided it.

But that Young hasn't shown up yet in the postseason. As the calendar flipped to October, Young's bat seemed to lose some of its magic. He has no RBIs this postseason and is hitting 3-for-27 (.111) in these playoffs. It's not the kind of production the Rangers or Young expected from the cleanup spot.

Tuesday wasn't any better. Young was 0-for-4 with three groundouts to shortstop, including a double play in the first that hurt the Rangers' chances of a big inning, and a strikeout with a runner at second in the ninth.

The steady Young certainly wasn't in panic mode as a gaggle of reporters cornered him in the back of the visitors clubhouse at Comerica Park late Tuesday following the Rangers' 5-2 loss.

[+] EnlargeJosh Hamilton
Rick Osentoski/US PresswireJosh Hamilton is part of a slumping Rangers offense that is hitting just .223 in the playoffs.
"I just stay the course," Young said. "I know what I'm capable of doing. I try to focus on fundamentals and get good pitches to hit and hit them as hard as I can."

You don't become a perennial All-Star and one of the top hitters in the league in the past decade without trusting your ability to make adjustments and avoid the temptation for a complete overhaul. So Young won't overreact to one slump.

This isn't the first time Young has struggled in the postseason. He was just 3-for-20 in the ALDS last year before rebounding with a 9-for-27 performance in the ALCS. Overall in 2010, Young hit .254 in the playoffs, well below his season average. Others picked up the slack for Young in 2010, just like they have early in this postseason. But the club has to have more from the cleanup hitter, who came up in run-scoring and momentum-building situations on Tuesday and wasn't able to execute.

It is surprising to see him struggle. His roughest stretch in 2011 before this one was 0-for-19 in a four-day span in June, which included three games in Cleveland and nearly two against these same Tigers.

Young's hitting woes aren't likely to cause manager Ron Washington to alter the lineup.

"Michael struggled before," Washington said. "I don't think there's a baseball player that's playing the game that hasn't struggled. No, I'm not concerned. Michael will figure it out."

The Rangers need him to. But he's not the only bat missing so far this postseason. Despite games in which Texas has piled up runs, it's been one big bat causing most of the damage. Adrian Beltre mashed three homers against Tampa Bay in the clinching Game 4 of the American League Division Series. Nelson Cruz hit the tying homer and then the winning grand slam, accounting for five of the Rangers' seven runs in a Game 2 AL Championship Series win. But top to bottom, the Rangers haven't shared the load offensively.

As a team, Texas is hitting .223 this postseason. It hit an MLB-best .283 in the regular season. The Rangers have scored four runs per playoff game, more than a run less than their season average.

"Collectively, we have yet to really take off offensively," said David Murphy, batting .231 in the playoffs and given Tuesday off. "There's no way to explain that. It's the postseason and opposing pitching staffs are solid, but we're a good offense. We're bound to break out, and to have one of those games where we put up 12 or 13 hits and score five or six runs. It seems like only a matter of time with this offense, but there's no guaranteeing it. We just need to stay focused."

On Tuesday, the Nos. 4-7 hitters -- Young, Beltre, Mike Napoli and Cruz -- were 0-for-15 with three strikeouts. But Beltre, Napoli and Cruz have performed well this postseason. Elvis Andrus and Josh Hamilton have not hit as well as they'd like.

Andrus did have a well-placed single in the first to help the Rangers get on the board first, but he is 4-for-24 (.167) in the playoffs. Mitch Moreland was hitting just .118 (2-for-17) and was benched for Game 3 as Young moved to first base with Yorvit Torrealba catching and Napoli at DH.

Part of Washington's decision on the lineup was about getting Young on the field.

"I needed to get him engaged," Washington said before the game. "It might jump-start his bat a little more instead of always thinking about hitting. It gets him a little more involved."

Young stresses that hitting and fielding are two different parts of the game, and that playing the field doesn't change things for him at the plate. Young said his pitch selection at the plate could be better.

"I won't spend too much time thinking about that game," Young said. "There's certain things I know I do well as a hitter. I'll keep going."

The Rangers hope he gets going soon and helps give this offense a boost.

Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.

Richard Durrett joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He writes about colleges, the Dallas Stars and the Texas Rangers. Richard spent nine years at The Dallas Morning News covering the Rangers, Stars, colleges, motorsports and high schools.

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