A whole lot of solid starting pitching by the Texas Rangers lately has been undone by a suddenly anemic offense that has failed to reach base, much less drive in runs.
That trend continued through the first six innings Friday night at Globe Life Park.
A crowd of 41,765 watched the Rangers’ offense whiff and wheeze against Minnesota Twins left-hander Tommy Milone for six innings.
That all changed in the seventh when Elvis Andrus homered on a 1-1 pitch, a two-run shot that snapped a 20-inning scoreless streak and helped reignite the Rangers’ offense to a 6-2 win.
The Rangers (32-29) added four more runs in the eighth, including a two-run line drive off the glove of center fielder A.J. Hicks by Mitch Moreland that made it 4-2.
It was ruled an error, so Moreland didn’t get credit for a double but he smoked the first pitch he saw from reliever Brian Duensing, the Twins’ third pitcher in the inning. Andrus followed with a two-run single up the middle to make it 6-2. Andrus, who had the only Rangers hit Thursday, had two of the Rangers’ five hits Friday and drove in a career-high four runs.
“He stepped up big for us tonight,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “He’s been battling. He’s been taking some good swings, been grinding. Hard work and real competitiveness paid off for the man tonight.”
Andrus’ batting average had dipped to .233 entering Friday’s game after he had raised it to a season-high .247 in late May.
“I was starting to get mad, I was swinging at too many pitches,” Andrus said. “In that at-bat, I was just trying to look for my pitch. [I’m] really happy to get that homer, and we got back in the game.”
The Rangers’ offense hadn’t scored more than four runs in its past eight games. They still managed to go 4-4 in the stretch, thanks in large part to stable starting pitching.
“It’s going to happen,” Banister said of the offensive dry spell, something he addressed with the team before Friday’s game. “Told our guys to stay stubborn with their approach. Grind it out. Stay with the process and don’t get too excited about not scoring runs and you believe in what you’re doing, you find a way to work yourself out on the top end of that. To be able to do it in our home ballpark in front of our home fans was really gratifying.”
Friday night the offense was given the chance to snap out of its funk because starter Wandy Rodriguez kept them in the game. He worked out of a first-inning jam in which the first three Twins reached, netting a 1-0 lead.
After spotting Minnesota (33-27) a run, however, Rodriguez retired the next 18 batters. Trevor Plouffe led off the seventh with a single and Rodriguez walked two more to load the bases before Keone Kela forced a slow bouncer to shortstop, which Andrus charged and fired to first to end the inning.
“I know this, I’m never going to discount Wandy out of any inning or any moment,” Banister said. “To have the bases loaded right out of the gate and only to give up one run in that inning, fantastic job by him ... a true testament to who he is and what he wants to do for this ball club.”
The defense was superb all night. Second baseman Hanser Alberto and third baseman Joey Gallo both made nice stops to keep Twins off the bases.
“It’s really gratifying given where we were and where we’re at and the direction we’re going,” Banister said of his defense, which ranked near the bottom of the league in fielding percentage in April but has steadily improved. “I think our defense has been trending in the right direction and playing very well.”
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760