July 29, 2012

Rangers' offense continues to struggle in loss to White Sox

The hitters meet after an 0-for-13 showing with runners in scoring position.

ARLINGTON -- No hitter could be found when the Texas Rangers' clubhouse opened to the media Saturday night.

They weren't ducking the reporters who had gathered to inquire about their inability to deliver a key hit. Instead, all 13 were huddled out of sight to clear the air about an offense that isn't clicking.

The Rangers had their worst showing with runners in scoring position in 15 years in a 5-2 loss to Chicago, but they haven't shown their expected offensive might since perhaps April.

There's no arguing their performance this month. The Rangers are the lowest scoring team in baseball, and only lowly Houston has been worse in July than the Rangers' .195 average (30 for 154) with runners in scoring position.

The message of the meeting was clear: Do what the game asks, put the ball in play, and the tide will turn.

"We know we're good," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "We know what we've done in the past. We know we've been the best offense in the game for the last two years. We know what it feels like to all be clicking, and we just need to get back to that."

A second straight loss and yet another Oakland victory trimmed the Rangers' lead in the American League West to 3 1/2 games. The Los Angeles Angels lost and are third at four games back.

Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn hit two-run homers for the White Sox off Matt Harrison, who gave the Rangers seven innings but got only a Mike Napoli homer to support him.

Napoli delivered the Rangers' other run, plating David Murphy from third with a groundout in the ninth inning to cap the 0-for-13 night. The Rangers went 0 for 14 with runners in scoring position on May 13, 1997, against Cleveland.

A batter doesn't need a base hit to bring a runner home from third, but hits extend rallies and help the runs pile up. Though the Rangers had scored at least five runs in three of the previous four games, the offense is hardly performing at its top level.

"The biggest thing isn't necessarily focusing on the result of the at-bat. It's playing our style of baseball," veteran Michael Young said. "I think it's time we got back to that."

Harrison (12-6) and Yu Darvish haven't been at their best the past two games, but the offense is a combined 1 for 21 with runners in scoring position and 0-for-20 since a first-inning homer Friday by Nelson Cruz.

The Rangers' most frustrating sequence Saturday came in the seventh, an inning that started with a triple by Young and a walk to Napoli. Jesse Crain replaced Philip Humber and promptly struck out Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry.

Kinsler was the third out when left fielder Dayan Viciedo grabbed a flare with a sliding catch. The Rangers went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position against Humber, who entered with a 7.55 ERA over his past 12 starts.

"We're just not hitting with runners in scoring position," manager Ron Washington said. "We're not putting the ball in play. You put it in play, something can happen."

Harrison lost for the second straight start and for the third time in his past four, but his ERA remains a respectable 3.19. He was undone by a pair of 1-0 fastballs to Konerko and Dunn in the fourth and fifth.

"I felt like there were two or three pitches I made mistakes on. Two of them were home runs," Harrison said. "I'm just doing what I can do on the field and trying to give a chance to win."

That's a tall task on a team that goes 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position.

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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