Texas Rangers slugger J.P. Arencibia has been around long enough to not let one or two failed at-bats shake his psyche. Especially not since spending more than a month in the minor leagues early this summer trying to work out his struggles at the plate.
The move helped him clear his head and refill it with what, as he said last week, makes him the power hitter he once was.
Since returning to the big leagues July 18, Arencibia has been a different player. He’s at first base instead of his usual catcher’s spot and he’s leading the team with nine RBIs since the All-Star break.
Two of those RBIs came on an 0-2 pitch Arencibia sent back up the middle with the bases loaded in the fifth inning Monday night as the Rangers defeated the New York Yankees 4-2 in front of 44,508 at Globe Life Park.
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Yu Darvish shook off two solo homers from the Yankees’ Brett Gardner, including the second home run in the fifth inning which gave New York a 2-0 lead.
Arencibia’s two-run single capped a four-run fifth which gave Texas the lead. The two-out rally also included Elvis Andrus’ run-scoring single and Adrian Beltre’s run-scoring double to the left-field corner.
For Arencibia, it’s usually feast or famine at the plate. Over the first couple months this season, it was all famine. Arencibia struggled with a .133 batting average and just one home run and six RBIs in 20 games before being sent to Round Rock on May 20.
Since his return, there has been much more feast. He has nine of the Rangers’ 30 RBIs in 11 games since the break. He’s done it playing first base for the first time in the big leagues.
Arencibia left five runners on base Sunday night after inning-ending strikeouts with two runners on in the third and the bases loaded in the fifth. He saw eight pitches combined in the two at-bats and swung at seven of them. He was thrown one ball, fouled off four others and swung and missed to end both innings.
“It’s part of the game,” Arencibia said before Monday’s game. “It happens to the best players in baseball. My approach has been the same since I got back. Be aggressive and look for a good pitch to hit. Two games before that I had big hits. Seventy percent of this game is failure and you’re a Hall of Famer, so it’s kind of absurd.”
Manager Ron Washington, who defended Arencibia on Sunday night, said the extra at-bats in the minors proved beneficial.
“We know he’s going to swing and miss, but right now he’s a threat at the plate,” Washington said. “We’re going to have to deal with the strikeouts, but also he’s going to come through with some big stuff for us and that’s what we wanted out of him. That’s why we sent him down to get at-bats.”
Jim Adduci was intentionally walked to load the bases for Arencibia.
“It was clutch for all of us. We needed it,” Washington said. “Adduci gets a walk and Arencibia delivered. He wasn’t trying to hit the ball out of the ballpark; he was just trying to make contact.”
Darvish (10-6) settled down and retired seven in a row until a couple two-out singles from Gardner and Derek Jeter put the tying run at second base in the seventh. Darvish pumped his fist in celebration after getting Brian McCann swinging for his eighth strikeout to end the inning. Darvish became the first pitcher in Rangers’ history to earn 10 or more wins in their first three seasons in the majors.
“That was just an example of his competitive juices,” Washington said. “That was a tough inning. The game could have been tied right there. He should show excitement. I’m glad he did because it was a tense time.”
For Arencibia, who has RBIs in five of his last seven games, winning is the key stat.
“I’m just trying to help us win, especially with the way I started,” Arencibia said. “I’ve said it numerous times, I was embarrassed the way I was playing. I want to do what Texas brought me in to do, which is help this team win.”