The search for runs Thursday morning following a second shutout in three games took manager Jeff Banister to another new look for the Texas Rangers’ offense.
Elvis Andrus dropped five spots in the batting order to seventh. Ryan Rua, who had struck out four times Wednesday, moved up one to fifth. Shin-Soo Choo and Mitch Moreland found new spots, second and sixth.
For a day, at least, call off the search party.
The Rangers’ bats woke up in the series finale against Oakland, as Moreland, Choo, Adrian Beltre and Rougned Odor hit the club’s first homers of the season to back Nick Martinez en route to a 10-1 victory that salvaged a split in the season-opening four-game series.
“That’s all the hitting coaches and the hitters,” Banister said. “We talked about it all spring, finding the rhythm of the lineup. A couple changes paid off early.
“That’s the type of stuff we’re looking for. We’re looking for that synergy of how well they work together. It played well today. We’ll get back at it tomorrow and see what works best for us. For the day, it was a solid outing for almost all of our hitters.”
The revamped lineup 2 through 6 went a combined 10 for 18 and drove in eight runs. Cleanup hitter Prince Fielder collected the first RBI in a three-run first, after an error plated the first run, and Moreland delivered a sac fly. He made it 5-0 in the third when he lined an opposite-field two-run homer off the top of the out-of-town scoreboard with two outs.
Choo’s homer came in the fourth, a towering drive off the top of the right-field out-of-town scoreboard, and Beltre collected career homer No. 396 in the seventh as he dropped to one knee to hit an Evan Scribner breaking ball.
“I knew I was going to get one before the season was over,” Beltre said. “I’m just swinging. I was following the ball. It’s nothing different. I was trying to make contact. That was it.”
Odor’s homer, his first hit of the season, opened the eighth and capped the Rangers’ best offensive day of the young season.
Banister’s thinking behind the lineup changes was to get a high on-base hitter in the No. 2 spot against A’s starter Kendall Graveman, who was making his major league debut. Choo also has some popup in case the bottom of the order was to make something happen, as it did ahead of him in the fourth.
Even moving Rua up one spot after his first career four-strikeout game paid dividends. Rua singled with two outs in the third to keep the inning alive for Moreland.
“I believe in our guys,” Banister said. “I believe in each of those hitters out there. It’s not a non-production situation. It’s more of let’s find where the performance is with each other. How each one of those guys and how they hit and where they hit effect each other. Let’s find the best rhythm right now we can.”
Martinez more than did his job, too, allowing only four singles in seven scoreless innings. A fly ball pitcher, Martinez induced double plays in the first and third immediately after allowing a single, and he finished with five strikeouts.
Only one A’s batter reached second base against Martinez, who commanded his fastball and threw his off-speed pitches for strikes. He also enjoyed pitching with a lead that stretched to 9-0 before he was removed.
“It helps that the guys came out swinging well today,” said Martinez, who threw 95 pitches. “I felt good going out and executing the game plan. I was able to do that. Having that run support early and often definitely gives you that extra confidence that you need.”
The hitters never lacked confidence despite scoring three runs in the first three games. It was just a matter of time, and maybe a few lineup changes.
“This is baseball, man,” Beltre said. “It’s only four days. The guys we faced threw the ball well, and we weren’t good enough that day. I didn’t see anyone around here panicking.”
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760