July 27, 2013

Rangers’ offensive doldrums continue in loss at Cleveland

Texas is shut out for the second time in three games.

Alex Rios won’t save the Texas Rangers’ offense. Neither will Hunter Pence or Kendrys Morales or any other player on the trade market.

The Rangers’ front office knows this, and the players know it as well. The cure has to come from the inside, not the outside.

There weren’t any promising signs that it would happen soon on Saturday, though, in a 1-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.

The Rangers were shut out for the second time in three games, and the problems can be found down the lineup. Nelson Cruz is 6 for his past 36 (.167); Mitch Moreland is 2 for 33 since the All-Star break; A.J. Pierzynski is batting .222 over his past 27 games; and Elvis Andrus has a .223 average over his past 59 games.

“Of course it’s got to be fixed by the guys here,” manager Ron Washington said. “They’re the ones going out on the field every day and the best way to fix it is to get some base hits with runners in scoring position. That’s our Achilles’ heel right now.

“If we get some base hits with runners in scoring position, this losing streak we’re on, we wouldn’t be on it.”

The Rangers have lost seven of nine since the break and are now five games back of the A’s in the American League West. That’s the largest division deficit the Rangers have had since the end of the 2009 season.

Michael Bourn started the game with a solo homer off Yu Darvish, and Justin Masterson and a pair of relievers made it stand by scattering five hits by the Rangers throughout the game.

“[Masterson] was too much,” third baseman Adrian Beltre said. “Obviously our offense has been inconsistent. The pitching staff has been great, but we’re not getting enough runs. Tonight we faced a guy that was throwing strikes and his ball was moving good. He was too much. We didn’t get it done.”

It spoiled a nice outing by Darvish.

After the leadoff homer by Bourn, Darvish retired five of the next six batters on strikeouts. He wound up piling up 11 strikeouts and 123 pitches over six innings of one-run ball.

That is generally good enough for a win, but Darvish wasn’t as frustrated by the loss as he was with his high pitch count.

“I couldn’t get in my rhythm,” Darvish said. “With two strikes, I threw a lot of balls and got my pitch count up. That must have been frustrating for the position players because I couldn’t get in my rhythm tonight.”

The same can be said for the offense, which fell back into its slump a day after rallying from a six-run deficit and scoring eight runs in a loss.

The Rangers had runners reach with one out in the first, second and fourth innings but didn’t advance them into scoring position.

Their best chance might have been in the fifth. With two outs and runners at first and second, Engel Beltre had a line-drive single to right, but Geovany Soto was held up at third.

Washington said the Rangers couldn’t have sent anybody home on the single, which was hit right at Indians right fielder Drew Stubbs. That gave Cruz a chance with the bases loaded, but he ended the threat by bouncing into a fielder’s choice.

“The only way you can get out of a slump is to go out and swing,” Cruz said. “I don’t want to change anything. I try my best every time I go up there. We just didn’t get it done.”

Texas didn’t have another man reach base until Cruz singled with two outs in the eighth to end Masterson’s night. Nothing came of that, though, as Indians right-hander Joe Smith got Adrian Beltre to fly out.

The Rangers went down in order in the ninth to guarantee their first losing month since June 2011. But the Rangers remain confident they can turn it around.

“It’s not like we’re being dominated,” Washington said. “We’re getting runners out there; we’ve just got to get them in.”

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