The answer to every wise guy’s question is yes.
Or absolutely. Or c’mon, man.
Do the Texas Rangers miss first baseman Prince Fielder?
Yes. Absolutely. C’mon, man.
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But the Rangers were able to calm the nerves of those who were convinced that the offense couldn’t score enough with Fielder headed toward an operating table for a cervical fusion that will end his season.
They might not score in the droves that had been forecast when Fielder was acquired and the herniated disk in his neck was either his little secret or the disk cartilage hadn’t yet failed.
For three of their four games against Detroit, though, the Rangers were the best they have been at the plate all season. They stuck it to Tigers again Sunday, scoring nine times against Justin Verlander en route to a 12-4 victory.
But, yes, the Rangers still wish they had Fielder.
“We miss Prince, and we’re not even going to dream that we don’t need him in our lineup,” manager Ron Washington said. “We certainly would like to have him in our lineup, but we don’t. We’ve got to go with what we got, and I just want these guys to continue to get better as the year goes on and stay consistent.”
Mitch Moreland, filling in for Fielder at first base and in the No. 3 spot in the lineup, went 3 for 5 and drove in three runs as the Rangers collected 17 hits. Michael Choice homered in the second, and Alex Rios had a two-run triple in the Rangers’ five-run fifth.
The Rangers scored 35 runs in the series — that includes only two in their lone loss of the series Friday — and 57 hits. They beat up Robbie Ray, a rookie left-hander, in the opener, but their weekend wins came against Rick Porcello, who had won six straight starts, and Verlander, the 2011 American League MVP and Cy Young winner.
“We caught him on a good day,” Washington said.
Fielder has been out of the lineup eight games, though he hit the disabled list only Friday. The Rangers have scored 49 runs without him, and their season batting average has climbed from .260 to .267.
The Rangers need production throughout the lineup, not just from Moreland, Adrian Beltre and Rios, and that’s what happened over the weekend. Washington, though, said everything starts with them.
Beltre has lifted his average to .297 during a seven-game hitting streak in which he has batted .500. Rios leads the team with a .316 average and 29 RBIs.
If Moreland can keep his average at .285, as it is now, or even .265, the Rangers score more consistently. With the middle of the lineup clicking, it will trickle down the lineup.
“As long as they’re going, I think it takes the pressure off the middle of our lineup,” Washington said. “Those kids down there can just continue to get better. If that happens, we’ll get the results.”
The Rangers won three of the four games at Comerica Park and pushed their record back to .500 at 25-25. All the offense Sunday came in support of Colby Lewis, who allowed two runs in 5 2/3 innings to improve to 4-3 in his comeback season.
He languished in the first two innings, throwing 50 pitches and allowing both runs as he pitched around some of the big Tigers bats. But he was plenty good enough with the Rangers bats doing what they did.
The Rangers scored in the first as Rios beat out a two-out chopper to plate Shin-Soo Choo, and Michael Choice started the second with a towering drive to left field. Robinson Chirinos followed with the first of his two doubles, and scored as Verlander threw wildly to first on a bunt by Rougned Odor.
The Rangers started to pull away as the first five batters reached and scored in the fifth, highlighted by Rios’ gapper to left-center. They scored again in the sixth on a Moreland double after the Rangers successfully challenged that his floater caught the left-field line.
Elvis Andrus, Moreland and Beltre had singles in the seventh as the lead stretched to 12-2.
The Rangers waited until Fielder was officially lost for the year before finding their groove at the plate. It was going to happen with or without Fielder, Moreland said.
“We’ve got too many good players in here, one through 25,” Moreland said. “Everybody on this team has contributed so far and stepped up in one way or another. I think this was just a big series for us overall to just right the ship and get it going.”
But don’t be fooled by all the weekend runs. The Rangers still wish they had Fielder.