Panic over the Texas Rangers’ current hitting woes had started to set in across the region entering Friday, with fans at Rangers Ballpark muttering in disbelief and fans at home yelling at their televisions each time a key hit had eluded the lineup.
Rangers hitters, on the other hand, are keeping the weeklong funk in perspective.
They knew entering a three-game series with Boston that they weren’t capitalizing on their scoring chances but also knew that they had continued to create opportunities for hitters expected to eventually fix what is ailing them.
All seemed to work out just fine Friday night.
The Rangers collected 12 hits in 3 2/3 innings against Felix Doubront, including five with runners in scoring position, and Derek Holland tossed eight scoreless innings on the way to a 7-0 rout of the team with the best record in baseball.
The clutch hits were just a matter of time. Allow designated hitter Lance Berkman, a veteran in his 15th big-league season, to explain.
“Hitting is the hardest thing in any sport, period, and the hardest part of hitting is hitting in those big situations,” he said. “People always focus on the very hardest thing there is to do, and it produces the most failure in any major sport.
“The more times you put guys on base and the more chances you give yourself to get that big hit with the guys we have on our team, eventually somebody is going to get that big hit. It’s not like we’re in last place.”
Berkman also stressed that the Rangers will remain a contender as long as they continue to get quality starting pitching, and Holland provided more of it against the Red Sox.
The left-hander allowed six singles and a walk while striking out a season-high nine. The Red Sox had only one runner advance to second base, with one out in the sixth inning after back-to-back singles.
“Derek was at his best,” manager Ron Washington said. “He has been pitching well, but he just hasn’t gotten the results for it. Tonight was another example of what he’s capable of doing.”
But the offense was as much of a story for the good it did after struggling for much of the past week. The lineup had 18 hits and went 6 for 10 with runners in scoring position after entering the game 10 for 55 in the previous seven games.
The Rangers didn’t lack for base runners early on, collecting eight hits in the first three innings against Doubront. They even had two two-out hits with runners in scoring position but could take only a 1-0 lead.
Texas padded its margin with a five-run fourth inning, which included three more two-out hits with runners in scoring position. The second was a bases-loaded double by Adrian Beltre to make it 5-0.
A lack of hits with runners at second or third had been especially glaring since the start of the Rangers’ four-game series at Minnesota last weekend, and the trend continued during their first series loss of the season against the White Sox.
A hitters’ meeting was held Thursday to address the woes.
“It didn’t seem to pay off right away, but I think we’re all on the same page,” hitting coach Dave Magadan said. “We’re not doing a very good job with guys on base. We’re getting them on for the most part, and we’ve got some guys pressing in those situations.
“It’s definitely a work in progress, but we certainly have a lot of confidence in the guys we have out there. It’s just a matter of them relaxing and letting their talents rise to the top. It’s only a matter of time.”
Beltre said as much Thursday night after he twice came up empty late in a 3-1 loss to the White Sox. He had hits in his first four at-bats Friday.
Elvis Andrus said that he had struck on something late Thursday and worked on it during batting practice before the opener against Boston. He singled in his second and third at-bats.
Beltre and Andrus entered the weekend hitting a combined .218 (50 for 229), but they weren’t panicking at all. The Rangers’ output Friday should ease many recent concerns.
“There’s no panic right now,” Andrus said. “It’s more about finding a way to help the team get a win. Everybody knows what’s going on right now. All we can do is keep fighting. For sure we’re going to be better than this.”