Slow-starting offense pitches in
Rangers even record as bats come alive in time for imposing nine-game road trip
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers packed their bags for their first road trip happy with Sunday's 9-2 get-away win over the Seattle Mariners while trying not to lament how this first six-game homestand could have ended with a couple of more victories.
Two blown save opportunities by deposed closer Frankie Francisco prevented a galloping start. But remember, the Rangers had their walk-off heroics that initially ended an embarrassing no hit-bid and then avoided a downer of an Opening Day. But, all that tends to even out over 162 games.
"Besides two ballgames we let get away, it could [have been] a very good week, so we're playing baseball," manager Ron Washington said. "As each day came and went I thought we got better, and that's the way the season is going to go. ... A little break here, a little break there, could have been a different record, but we're playing good baseball."
Texas got a daily double on Sunday with strong starting pitching combined -- finally -- with a feisty lineup that slugged out season highs in hits (16) and runs.
The starting pitching continued to take care of business with a fifth quality start in six games, and the relief efforts -- with all due respect to Mr. Francisco -- have been proficient. Scott Feldman, the ace of the club, labored through some pitch counts Sunday, but he consistently battled through minor jams and never really got tagged in allowing two runs, one earned, on seven hits in seven innings.
"Everything starts and ends with pitching, so if we get pitching like that we feel like we're going to be in great shape," third baseman Michael Young said. "The guys are doing a great job. They're throwing strikes, they have a great pace, they're keeping the defense involved. It's fun playing behind them right now."
It certainly helps when an offense that came into the day collectively batting .216 can put up five runs in the first two innings and belt out nine hits through four innings. Those nine hits represented more than one-quarter of the total hits Texas had through the first five games (35), of which Nelson Cruz, Vladimir Guerrero and Joaquin Arias, of all people, had combined for well more than half (22).
Yet, the damage could have been worse. The Rangers stranded seven men through the first four innings, including the bases loaded in the first inning, so timely hitting still wasn't always in sync.
Young, batting .167 entering the game, homered. Chris Davis, mired at .143, sent a liner to right for a base hit and his first RBI of the season. Josh Hamilton, stuck on .154, roped a pair of doubles, and Elvis Andrus, anchored at .176, laced a run-scoring triple to the gap in right-center.
"When it comes to making adjustments, everyone's kind of got to look in the mirror and see what they have to do individually because everyone might have a different adjustment to make," said Young, who raised his average to .182. "The biggest thing is recognizing what you have to work on and applying it to the game. I felt like today was the first sign of us doing that in a game, and that was good to see."
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Guerrero continued to mash with three more hits to drive his average to .500. Arias picked up three more hits, and catcher Matt Treanor, in his Rangers debut, had two hits and a couple of RBIs.
"When you've got guys like Michael and Cruz and Vlad, Chris Davis and Joaquin, and Hamilton is swinging the bat, it does get contagious," Washington said. "It makes it tough on a pitcher to get through the lineup, and we can get them to start swinging the bats."
So, sitting at .500 might not be how the Rangers planned their six-game opening homestand and it certainly would have been nice to build a cushion with a nine-game, 11-day road trip looming to Cleveland, New York and Boston.
If hitting is contagious, the Rangers are hopeful it will follow them on the road.
"We have guys in our lineup that made some adjustments and, boom, it just trickled down," Young said. "But, I think winning is contagious, too."