Rangers finally ‘explode’ against Mariners

Posted Thursday, Jul. 04, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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lebreton In the seventh inning on this Fourth of July night, suddenly there it was.

Fireworks. About an hour early.

The way that Texas Rangers hitters have been struggling to reach home plate this week, yes, a four-run inning qualified as cherry bombs and Roman candles.

When the smoke cleared, the Rangers had salvaged the third game of the series against the Seattle Mariners, 5-4.

Not exactly an offensive mushroom cloud, but it did the trick.

Before run-scoring at-bats Thursday by Mitch Moreland, Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler, the Rangers’ lack of success with runners in scoring position had reached drought levels. Their season average in those situations had dipped over the past week to .239 — 13th (of 15 teams) in the American League.

Modern baseball math suggests that the Runners in Scoring Position metric is a counterfeit measure of a hitter’s prowess. Even some players would agree.

Veteran Lance Berkman, for one, disputes the notion of a “clutch” hitter, even though his own career numbers (1,234 RBI) suggest that he is one.

“I guess I should answer that by saying all you can expect from a guy is to hit the same with runners in scoring position as he does normally,” Berkman said. “Whatever your career average is, you should hit that or better with runners in scoring position. If you’re doing that, you can’t ask anything more of a guy.”

But the game is all about scoring runs. And though the national media still insists in painting the Rangers with the same tired, big-bat brush, the fact is that they began Thursday no better than ninth in the league in runs scored.

Both the Athletics and the Angels, among others, have scored more runs than the Rangers this season.

If I were the general manager of the Rangers, I’d be worried about this.

The field manager, Ron Washington, said that he isn’t worried, but he admitted that he does have a wish for his team for the second half of the season.

“If I had a wish,” Wash said dreamily Thursday afternoon, “it’d be that we bat 1.000 in the second half with runners in scoring position.”

What precipitated Washington’s wish was a question about what, if anything, he’d like to see his lineup do better in its remaining 78 games.

“Better hitting with runners in scoring position,” he answered. “That’s been our Achilles’ heel.”

Using Berkman’s measure, the Rangers should be scoring more runs. They are sixth in the league with their .260 team batting average.

But the lineup, we have been reminded lately, is far from slump-proof. That, let me suggest, is a product of not having a daily lineup overflowing with high on-base guys.

On a given night, any player can run into a Felix Hernandez and go hitless. But getting on base in another fashion can count just as much.

That’s an area, however, that the Rangers will have to address in the off-season, probably not before the trade deadline.

“It’s an individual thing,” Washington said of the runners-in-scoring-position slump.” You never know what’s going through a person’s mind when they’re standing in that box.

“It’s also a situation where they sometimes want to do it too badly.”

On Thursday, after two nights in which they were a combined 2 for 17 with runners in scoring position, the Rangers … well … exploded.

It made the four-run seventh inning seem like a holiday.

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

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