Rangers’ bats silently Klubered in loss to Indians

Posted Tuesday, Jun. 11, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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lebreton The Texas Rangers didn’t just lose Tuesday night. They got Klubered.

Mystified by a Cleveland Indians pitcher — a local kid, Corey Kluber of Coppell — who tied them into tidy little knots.

Out went the Indians’ eight-game losing streak. Back came the foggy malaise that has gripped the Rangers’ bats for the last three weeks.

When you’re not hitting, of course, a lot of guys can beat you. You can get Klubered. You can get Shieldsed. You can even get Dempstered, as the Rangers showed last week.

This 5-2 stifling just happened to come where and when it was least expected — at Rangers Ballpark, where they had just begun an 11-game sojourn in promising fashion, and in mid-June, when the days and bats in Texas are said to historically heat up.

It was 91 degrees at game time. Not nearly hot enough to keep 45,200 away from the ballpark on Yu Darvish Bobblehead Night.

Kluber, though, responded by keeping his strenuous effort to a disarming minimum. Through five innings Tuesday night, the Indians right-hander had thrown only 46 pitches.

It was 4-0 in Cleveland’s favor by then, and the way the Rangers were going down meekly — nary a runner reaching second base — the deficit seemed much larger.

Not all the Rangers are in a hitting slump. But add the recent struggles of Lance Berkman, Nelson Cruz, David Murphy and Elvis Andrus to the ongoing injury absences of Ian Kinsler and Mitch Moreland, and you have a team that has scored three or fewer runs 12 times in its last 20 games.

The Rangers began the night batting only .218 for the month of June.

These are not the Texas Rangers that paying customers have grown accustomed to. That’s not meant to be a lament over no longer having Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young. None is intended.

Clearly, though, the lineup is in an extended slump. It’s been inconsistent and inefficient. When runners do get on, most times they aren’t being moved over. And when they do get moved over, most of the time they aren’t being driven in.

And with offense at a minimum, the Rangers can ill afford blunders such as Tuesday’s sixth inning when, down 4-0, Leury Garcia attempted to advance from second to third base on a fairly routine fly ball to left field — and was gunned down.

A tip of the cap, no doubt, was due to Kluber, who went eight mostly stress-free innings, allowing only one run and six hits. His calling card this season has been his pitch command. In his first 10 games, Kluber had issued only nine walks.

He’s making his major league case well. In his previous start at Boston, Kluber, drafted in the fourth round by the Padres in 2007, pitched 6 2/3 innings against the Red Sox, allowing three hits and one run while striking out 10 and walking only one.

But the Rangers seem to be tipping too many caps to too many starting pitchers lately.

Kinsler and Moreland have been missed, but neither is expected back before this current homestand is completed.

And to think, June is supposed to be among the Rangers’ kindest months. With the approach of summer, franchise history tells us, the Rangers’ bats have always heated up.

Darvish, who pitches Thursday, was asked about that very subject before Tuesday’s game, and he admitted, “I think the ball is going to carry as soon as the weather warms up.”

But Darvish added, “I don’t really mind the heat at all. As long as I’m healthy, I’m fine with it.”

It isn’t the pitching that’s been the Rangers’ problem, though. It’s the hitting. It’s the run-scoring. It’s the rallies that have continued to wither on the vine.

In the series finale Wednesday, the Indians will send Ubaldo Jimenez to the mound.

Klubered one night. Ubaldo-ed the next?

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton

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