Hours before the game, the party line throughout the Texas Rangers’ clubhouse was that the offense will come. There was no need to worry, the players and manager said.
And they were right for a night.
The Rangers had their most productive inning of the season, scoring six runs in the fifth en route to a 7-0 victory over the Mariners on Friday night at Rangers Ballpark.
“We brought our bats out a little bit today, and it’s something good to see,” said center fielder Craig Gentry, who went 2 for 4 with two RBIs.
“Hopefully tonight will help us,” said catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who drove in the first two runs in the fifth with a single. “But the biggest story was Yu.”
Texas starter Yu Darvish turned in another impressive start. He worked seven scoreless innings, a promising sign on a day the team announced that Opening Day starter Matt Harrison wouldn’t return until after the All-Star break because of back surgery.
Darvish scattered three hits, with three walks and 10 strikeouts over his 111-pitch outing. It is the 10th start that Darvish has registered double-digit strikeouts in his career, tying for fifth most in franchise history.
Darvish got his first six outs on strikeouts and retired 11 of the last 12 batters he faced. Robbie Ross worked out of a bases-loaded jam in a scoreless eighth, and Michael Kirkman pitched the ninth to complete the Rangers’ third shutout of the season.
“After the second inning, I was able to command my fastball and get strikes with my fastball,” Darvish said. “I wasn’t able to do that the last outing, so I think I was able to confuse the Mariners’ lineup with the different kind of pitching style that I did today.”
Darvish allowed three runs over six innings in a losing effort against the Mariners on April 12, his last outing.
Mariners starter Joe Saunders, on the other hand, had a strong outing last Saturday against the Rangers. He held them to an unearned run over seven innings.
And Saunders was pitching well going into the fifth inning Friday, only giving up a solo homer to Jeff Baker in the second inning.
But the Rangers’ offense eventually broke loose.
Lance Berkman reached with a one-out single, Adrian Beltre drew a walk, and Nelson Cruz singled to load the bases. Pierzynski then drove two runs in with a single to left.
Baker followed with a walk, David Murphy had an RBI groundout, and Gentry brought in two more runs with a two-out triple to left. Ian Kinsler capped off the scoring spree with an RBI double to left off reliever Hector Noesi.
The six runs scored by the Rangers in the inning were more than they had scored in any of their previous seven games. The Rangers went into the game with a .209 batting average and just 17 combined runs over those last seven games.
“We’ve got a very good offensive ballclub that has not hit its stride yet, which is good news,” Berkman said. “We’ve had great starting pitching, and we haven’t put together the kind of run I expect we will yet.”
A six-run inning could be the starting point, although time will tell. For now, the Rangers are simply pleased to see the offense come through for a night.
“Tonight was a night when we had some opportunities and cashed them in,” manager Ron Washington said. “You hope [it jump-starts the offense], but we just had some good at-bats in good situations.”