Five losses in a seven-game homestand is no way for a contending team to start the second half of a season, especially when their top division rival opened with four wins in six games against two sub-.500 teams.
If nothing else, though, the Texas Rangers could leave for a weekend series at Cleveland feeling confident that their starting rotation will be in fine shape for the stretch run.
The homestand also hammered home that offense continues to be the club’s No. 1 problem, and general manager Jon Daniels’ No. 1 task is to find help for a still-sputtering offense with five days remaining before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
An additional right-handed bat wouldn’t have done the Rangers much good Thursday in the finale of a four-game series against New York. Hiroki Kuroda allowed six hits in seven scoreless innings to outpitch Derek Holland in a 2-0 Yankees victory.
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But the Rangers scored only 17 runs on the homestand and have scored more than four runs only once in their past 12 games. Daniels might need to find more than one bat.
“We’re definitely not where we want to be,” first baseman Mitch Moreland said. “I don’t know what it is. You can say whatever you want. We just didn’t get the job done like we need to.”
The lack of offense isn’t a sudden development, and it is going to get worse in the likely event that Nelson Cruz is suspended for his connection to the Biogenesis of America scandal.
The Rangers are counting on players like Moreland, left fielder David Murphy and shortstop Elvis Andrus to hit like they have in the past and for center fielder Leonys Martin and infielder Jurickson Profar to play to the potential they showed in the minor leagues.
Designated hitter Lance Berkman, out with a hip injury, might never come back, and the best internal option to help the team could very well be 41-year-old Manny Ramirez at Triple A Round Rock.
“We need all of these guys to do what they’ve always done,” manager Ron Washington said. “Baseball just doesn’t work like that. There are times when things don’t go your way and you have to grind through it.”
The Rangers have put Chicago White Sox outfielder Alex Rios, Fort Worth native and San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence and Seattle designated hitter Kendrys Morales atop their wish list for a right-handed bat.
There isn’t much interest in a reunion with outfielder Marlon Byrd, who is with the New York Mets, and a trade for either White Sox center fielder Alejandro De Aza or Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Norichika Aoki doesn’t make much sense because they are left-handed hitters.
The Rangers, even those struggling, believe the talent on the roster can shake the team out of its funk.
“We feel good about where we are,” Murphy said. “We have the personnel in this clubhouse to get it done.”
That wasn’t the case against Kuroda (10-6), who scattered six singles as the Rangers were shut out for the sixth time this season.
The Rangers had a chance in the third, putting runners at first and second with one out before Ian Kinsler struck out and Andrus grounded out.
Kinsler started the sixth with a single but was out stealing as Andrus failed to make contact on a hit-and-run. Andrus reached on an infield single and Nelson Cruz walked, but Adrian Beltre flied out and A.J. Pierzysnki was out on a sliding catch by left fielder Melky Mesa to end the threat.
The Rangers were 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position and are batting .165 (13 for 79) in those situations the past 12 games.
“It’s just not hitting on the cylinders we need it to hit on,” Washington said. “It’s not like a base hit wouldn’t solve some things.”
Holland (8-6) surrendered runs in the sixth and the eighth as the Rangers wasted another solid performance from a starter. Save for the seven runs Ross Wolf allowed Saturday, the other five starters, including newcomer Matt Garza, posted a 1.93 ERA in six games.
“I have to do my job, and that’s to limit the damage,” Holland said. “We just didn’t get runs on the board when we got chances.”
That’s been the story of the season. The clock is ticking toward July 31 for Rangers officials to find some help.