Commentary

Rangers bats come up empty in clutch

Vaunted offense failed to cash in on opportunities when game was still in doubt

Updated: October 29, 2010, 10:30 AM ET
By Richard Durrett | ESPNDallas.com

SAN FRANCISCO -- Before the Texas bullpen walk-a-thon and two-out meltdown broke open a close game in the eighth inning, the Rangers' offense was set to take most of the blame for a Game 2 loss.

The disastrous seven-run eighth inning, which included four straight walks (including 11 consecutive balls by Derek Holland), a single and a triple with two outs, only obscured the fact that the Rangers' offense couldn't come up with clutch hits earlier in the 9-0 loss.

Against a team like the San Francisco Giants, who rely on outstanding pitching and just enough from their offense, the Rangers must take advantage of good scoring opportunities.

[+] EnlargeNelson Cruz
AP Photo/David J. PhillipNelson Cruz was hitless in Game 2 for the first time during the postseason.

They didn't do it Thursday.

The winning team has scored 20 runs while taking a 2-0 lead in this World Series.

And it's not the versatile, balanced Rangers lineup. The scrappy Giants have produced the big hits and are 13-for-26 (.500) with runners in scoring position. The Rangers are 4-for-21 (.190) in those situations.

Key cogs in the Rangers' lineup -- Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler -- are a combined 5-for-33 (.151) with two RBIs.

So much for the huge edge the Rangers had in terms of offense -- at least so far.

"We haven't done enough with runners in scoring position," said Hamilton, now 1-for-8. "When we have guys in scoring position, it's very important to get them in at least 75 percent of the time, especially in the postseason and the World Series. How do we fix it? Just have to get it done."

The problem was magnified in Game 2. Texas was shut out for the first time this postseason and was 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

The Rangers had opportunities to take the lead early and then close the gap later. The big hit, however, eluded them as Giants starter Matt Cain made the right pitches to work out of jams.

Texas had at least one runner in scoring position with less than two outs three times and couldn't cash in.

Kinsler missed a home run by inches to lead off the fifth, blasting an 0-2 fastball to the top of the wall in straightaway center. He wound up on second base with no one out in a scoreless game with the Rangers having an opportunity to strike first. David Murphy came up and hit a soft liner to short, meaning Kinsler couldn't advance.

"I had an opportunity to move Kinsler over to third, and if there would have been a runner on third with less than two outs and [Matt] Treanor up there, most likely they are playing the infield back and he has to hit a ground ball to score a run," Murphy said.

Josh Hamilton
Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesJosh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler were exasperated by Giants pitching in Game 2.

Instead, Treanor came up with Kinsler still at second and one out. He fell behind in the count 0-2 and grounded out to short on a changeup.

"I thought I had some good pitches to hit," Treanor said. "He started me off with a slider, and I was in front of it. You get down 0-2 and you have to respect the fastball because he has the ability to throw it by you. I had a chance to do something but didn't get it done."

The Giants then walked Mitch Moreland and got C.J. Wilson to ground out to end the inning.

After the Rangers wasted that chance, San Francisco got the lead in the bottom half of the frame when Edgar Renteria homered to left.

Texas, though, had an opportunity to keep Cain from putting up a shutdown inning. Young and Hamilton singled with one out in the sixth. They moved over to second and third on a wild pitch with Cruz at the plate. The Giants, guarding against the big inning, played the infield back. Cruz needed to hit a ground ball to the right spot or a fly ball to tie the score.

He did neither.

Cain threw an inside fastball, and Cruz popped it up in foul territory down the first-base line.

"I'm lost at the plate," said Cruz, who went hitless in the postseason for the first time. "My timing is not there. That's no excuse. I should have done better that at-bat. It's part of the game. Sometimes you can find it in one game. I have to keep battling."

Kinsler then came up with two outs and popped up to shallow right. That seemed to be the theme of the game. When the Rangers needed a ground ball or a fly ball, they got a popup.

They know it has to get better in Arlington if they want to force a return trip to San Francisco.

"They've got all kinds of arms out there, so you have to do little things, especially in big games like this, to put some runs on the board," Murphy said. "It ended up a lopsided game, but it would have been nice if we could have taken advantage of those opportunities we had earlier. You don't like to sit back and think what if. That's why you have to get it done when you have the chance."

Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his mailbag.

Richard Durrett joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He writes about colleges, the Dallas Stars and the Texas Rangers. Richard spent nine years at The Dallas Morning News covering the Rangers, Stars, colleges, motorsports and high schools.

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