All those struggling Texas Rangers hitters weren’t kidding last month when they said they weren’t worried about their slow start.
Remember April, when the Rangers couldn’t hit a beach ball, Dave Magadan was the world’s worst hitting coach and Shin-Soo Choo was the worst player in the major leagues?
The offensive times have changed in May for the Rangers, who scored 10 runs in the third inning Saturday afternoon en route their fourth consecutive win, a 15-4 victory over the New York Yankees.
The Rangers lead the major leagues in total bases this month and lead the American League in hits. They haven’t been rattling off huge run totals all month, as evidenced by 10 games with three or fewer, but the Rangers’ offense isn’t as bad as it was during the season’s first month.
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“That last week of April is when you started to see signs,” manager Jeff Banister said. “We’ve still got a lot of things to work on. For a premium offense to go, it needs to be consistent. Give yourselves as many opportunities as you can each inning to drive in runs.”
The 10-run third was the Rangers’ biggest inning since scoring 11 in the third inning of a 16-5 victory Aug. 19, 2013, over Houston. They scored seven runs in the third inning Friday during a 10-9 win.
Every Rangers starter had at least one hit, and Mitch Moreland was the only starter who didn’t score a run. Prince Fielder went 3 for 4 with three runs, three RBIs and his team-leading eighth homer.
Choo had both of his hits and all four of his RBIs in the third, driving in the game’s first run on a single to left off the once-great CC Sabathia and bringing home the last three on a home run to left field off Esmil Rogers.
The Rangers had eight hits in the third — Fielder also went 2 for 2 with an RBI — and13 players batted. The inning started with a walk to Jake Smolinski and was followed by four straight hits before Moreland popped out.
Elvis Andrus drove in two with a single to begin a stretch where six of the next seven batters reached. The lone out was a sacrifice fly by Smolinski, who officially was 0 for 0 in the inning with a run and an RBI.
Choo followed two batters later with his seventh homer of the year, continuing a 180 from April, when he batted .096. Choo is batting .316 with six homers and 17 RBIs in May.
“I’m not really good and I’m not really bad,” Choo said. “Just between. I tried to get a feel when I was hitting good during the last homestand. I talked to Magadan and tried to remember how I was feeling.”
Fielder added his third homer in fewer than 24 hours in the seventh, a two-run shot. He has hit all season, though seven of his eight home runs have come in May, but his overall average has climbed to .351.
Magadan and assistant hitting coach Bobby Jones had work to do with Fielder after his neck surgery to fix some bad swing habits, and he has flourished while the rest of the offense lagged in April. But from Choo to third baseman Adrian Beltre to rookie Delino DeShields, the offense is starting to take off this month.
“It’s really a testament to the coaching staff and the players, and Dave Magadan and Bobby Jones having these hitters prepared,” Banister said. “They’re going out to compete and swing the bats and put themselves in a position to have success.”
Nick Martinez flourished with all the run support, and the Rangers won for the eighth time in his nine starts. Martinez allowed two runs, both on solo homers, on five hits in seven solid innings.
He also tied Rich Hand (1972) for the club record with his 15th consecutive start of three earned runs or fewer in an outing that started with two walks in the first inning but picked up with eight straight outs before Alex Rodriguez started the fourth with an infield single for the Yankees’ first hit.
The offense made Martinez’s job easy. This isn’t April anymore.
“It was a matter of time,” Andrus said. “Early we were creating a lot of opportunities. We knew that as soon as we started getting a couple hits, the offense would relax. That’s what’s happening right now.”
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760