Struggling hitters break out to lift Rangers to 14-3 rout over Angels
05/04/2014 6:36 PM
05/04/2014 10:36 PM
The moon and stars aligned on a sun-soaked Sunday afternoon at Angel Stadium, a cosmic event that J.P. Arencibia had been awaiting since the start of the season.
The Texas Rangers catcher entered the finale against the Los Angeles Angels in an 0-for-28 slump. His .077 batting average wasn’t just below the Mendoza Line. It was nearly at sea level.
His performance had cost him regular playing time to Robinson Chirinos, and Arencibia hadn’t exactly been an All-Star behind the plate with only five wins in 13 starts and a catcher’s ERA that three days ago was above 6.00.
But that changed, at least for a day, for Arencibia, and other Rangers who have struggled of late saw some divinity come their way.
Arencibia homered and drove in two runs in his first two plate appearances, and Prince Fielder and Michael Choice also delivered key hits to back Yu Darvish en route to a 14-3 victory.
“A lot of guys had good games, so it was definitely a good day,” Fielder said. “That’s what you hope for. It’s a long season, but that’s the plan. You just try to come out each day and see what you can do.”
Arencibia nearly hit a grand slam in the first inning but settled for a sacrifice fly on a ball that was caught at the left-field wall. He homered for the first time this season with one out in the third and started the ninth with a sharp single to left and later scored.
Fielder, who entered batting .209, lined an RBI double in each of his first two at-bats and later added a single. Choice, who entered batting .196, launched a three-run homer and collected a career-high four RBIs.
Adrian Beltre, who entered in an 0-for-12 drought, went 3 for 5. Elvis Andrus, who had been dropped to ninth in the order, singled and walked in his first two trips and plated Arencibia with a sacrifice fly in a five-run ninth.
Clearly, it wasn’t the best day for Angels left-hander Tyler Skaggs, who beat the Rangers on Memorial Day 2013 while with Arizona. He and a few Angels relievers could be remembered as the pitchers who got the Rangers’ offense going.
That’s a significant leap to take based on one game, but manager Ron Washington is a staunch believer in the theory that it just takes the right pitcher on the right day to get a struggling hitter going.
No game has been so right for the Rangers’ offense this season.
“We may not put up that many runs every day, but we can certainly be more consistent,” Washington said. “Today, it was a good day up and down the lineup.”
No one needed a good day as badly as Arencibia, who was pulled off a thin catching market in the off-season for $1.8 million. He appeared to be in line for the majority of the playing time when Geovany Soto was injured late in spring camp but has been outplayed in all phases by Chirinos.
“Unfortunately, where we’re at now, things get a little blown out of proportion,” Arencibia said. “Eventually, if you keep having good at-bats, things are going to change. I’ve been hitting the ball hard all year with nothing to show. That’s kept me sane right there.”
Arencibia helped guide Darvish through 6 1/3 innings. The right-hander allowed all three Angels runs on seven hits and overcame a fast start by the Angels, who got solo homers from Erick Aybar and Albert Pujols in the first inning.
One of the biggest sequences of the game came with the Rangers leading 5-2 in the second, when a replay challenge by Washington overturned a safe call on a force play at third base.
Darvish gathered a tapper by Aybar and made a back-handed flip to Beltre, who tapped third base with his foot before C.J. Cron slid in. If the call had stood, the Angels would have had the bases loaded with one out for Mike Trout.
“That changed the game right there,” said Beltre, who immediately motioned to the bench for a replay. “They were coming back. If you’ve got Trout, one of the best hitters in the game, batting with one out and the bases loaded, I don’t know what would have happened after that.”
Normally starved for run support, Darvish relished in the offense’s big day.
“It’s better to have run support than not having run support, but my approach doesn’t change,” said Darvish, who struck out nine and walked only one. “After the second inning, my mindset was to get as deep into the game as possible, and I was glad I was able to do it.”
Next up for the Rangers is a two-game series at hitter-friendly Colorado. Arencibia and the rest of their struggling hitters, though, might have started to get things rolling Sunday.
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