An uninspiring road trip in which the Texas Rangers lost the final five games has left them 11 1/2 games back of the Oakland Athletics in the American League West and in a group of teams with an outside chance of getting a wild-card berth.
All signs point to the rash of injuries catching up to this team as it’s been forced to fill holes with young and inexperienced players. But somehow, there is still optimism throughout the clubhouse with 87 games left. The Rangers begin a stretch of 20 straight games until the All-Star break beginning Tuesday night with a three-game series against Detroit.
“We’re not giving up by any means,” third baseman Adrian Beltre said. “We cannot look back and feel sorry for ourselves because of all the injuries. Oakland is playing well, the Angels are too, but there’s a long way to go. We believe we can somehow find a way to get back.”
The simplest way for the Rangers to do that is to find a way to get a depleted offense going again. It became clear after Sunday’s 5-2 loss to the Angels that manager Ron Washington felt the offense was the biggest thing holding them back.
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The Rangers have scored 15 runs during their losing streak, including just nine in the last four games.
“The name of the game is scoring runs, and we’re not scoring them,” Washington said. “We certainly have to find ways to produce runs. If we start producing runs, we’ll be fine.”
Sunday was another day filled with examples of the Rangers’ struggling offense.
They scored two runs on nine hits and are batting .197 with runners in scoring position the past 24 games. They hit into three double plays and now lead the majors in that category with 73.
They had base runners reach in six of the first eight innings but only scored a single run in the sixth. It would have been seven of the first eight innings, too, if Elvis Andrus didn’t try to stretch a single into a double in the first inning.
The only highlights came when Leonys Martin started the sixth with a double and scored on a wild pitch and when Brad Snyder belted a solo shot with two outs in the ninth.
“We’ve just got to start putting runs on the board when opportunities present themselves,” Washington said.
Washington will continue tweaking with a makeshift lineup nobody envisioned back in spring training. It includes names such as Snyder and Donnie Murphy instead of Prince Fielder, Mitch Moreland, Jurickson Profar and Geovany Soto.
It’s forced Washington to drop Shin-Soo Choo from the leadoff spot to the three-hole and push Martin and rookie Michael Choice into the leadoff spot.
But Washington and his players aren’t using that as an excuse for their recent struggles.
“When I step to the plate, I’m not thinking about who is missing and who is not,” Beltre said. “I just want to do my job at home plate, not anything extra.”
Choo, though, acknowledged that he might be trying to do too much while batting third. He’s in what has become a six-week slump, batting .175 over his last 42 games.
Choo reiterated that his balky left ankle has not hampered him at the plate, but the lineup switch might be.
“I’m being a little bit more aggressive,” Choo said. “When I hit leadoff, there’s nobody on base most times. If I hit third, most times there is someone on base … so I try to do more.
“But I’m figuring it out. I believe in myself, and I think I’ll get more consistent.”
Consistency could be used throughout the lineup.
The Rangers have scored 15 runs in their five-game losing streak, including only nine in their last four games. Five telling numbers:
.197 Batting average with runners in scoring position the past 24 games
73 Times they have grounded into a double play, most in the majors
56 Successful steals, third-most in the majors
30 Times caught stealing, most in the majors
54 Home runs on the season, second-fewest in the AL