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Rangers' big bats rendered harmless

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Tough left-handed starters hadn't slowed the Texas Rangers' offense this postseason. At least not until Game 4 of the World Series.

Ask Cy Young candidates David Price and CC Sabathia. Texas scored eight runs in 12 2/3 innings off Price and beat him twice to win the ALDS. The Rangers scored five runs and forced Sabathia out in the fourth inning of Game 1 of the ALCS, only to have the Yankees come back late to win. Even in the Game 5 loss to Sabathia, Texas pounded out 11 hits and put pressure on the southpaw. Texas also beat Andy Pettitte, with all of his postseason pedigree, in the ALCS.

But San Francisco Giants rookie Madison Bumgarner, a name that won't appear on any Cy Young ballots this season, did Sunday night what those All-Stars couldn't.

Bumgarner used Colby Lewis' plan from Game 3 -- get ahead of hitters with first-pitch strikes, stay aggressive around the zone and let the defense do the rest -- and cruised to eight shutout innings. Only one Ranger managed to reach second base, and that was with two outs in the seventh.

"He pitched a great game," Michael Young said after the Giants' 4-0 victory moved them within a win of becoming world champions. "But we know we can do more as an offense. We have to score runs."

They'll have to try to do it against Giants ace Tim Lincecum in Game 5 in an elimination game Monday and then Matt Cain, who shut them out last week, in Game 6 if the series ends up back in San Francisco. That won't be easy.

In Sunday's Game 4, Texas was shut out for the second time in this World Series.

And the fact that it happened at home one night after the Rangers appeared to grab the momentum with a 4-2 Game 3 win left a capacity crowd stunned. The Rangers were shut out at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington just once in 2010, when Oakland's Dallas Braden threw a four-hitter in late August.

How superior has the Giants' pitching been? The Rangers have 26 hits through four games; the Giants have 26 runs.

Maybe the biggest example of how badly things are going for the Rangers' offense was Vladimir Guerrero's night. He saw plenty of sliders and off-speed stuff and couldn't get his bat on anything. The designated hitter was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. It's the first time all season that he's struck out three times in a game and it's the first time in 43 postseason games that he's collected that kind of hat trick.

"Offensively, we definitely expect more of ourselves," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "There's not too many times we get shut out in this ballpark or anywhere, really. So offensively we need to be better."

Inexperienced starters didn't carve up this potent Rangers lineup very often in 2010. Rookie pitchers were 3-8 with a 6.10 ERA in 14 starts against Texas, the highest ERA for rookie starters against any team.

The Rangers faced a starting pitcher for the first time 24 times this season, and Texas was 17-7 in those games with the opposing starters posting a 5.79 ERA.

Bumgarner defied all of the trends. And his gem has the Rangers on the brink of elimination. But Game 4 was merely the latest example of an offense struggling to string hits together and score runs in bunches, something the Rangers did when they needed it most in 2010.

The heart of their lineup has provided little production in the World Series. Josh Hamilton, Guerrero and Nelson Cruz were 1-for-10 on Sunday and are a combined 6-for-42 (.143) with five RBIs through Game 4.

The club's baserunning ability, which helped it manufacture runs and put pressure on the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees, has been a nonfactor against the Giants.

Texas has two stolen bases and has been caught stealing twice. In the fourth inning Sunday, Hamilton was thrown out trying to steal second with two outs and Cruz standing at home representing the tying run. It was a desperate move to try to generate a spark, and it extinguished any hope Texas had of getting back in the game with one swing.

As a team, the Rangers are now batting .211 in the series. They are 5-for-28 (.179) with runners in scoring position and are getting outslugged by the Giants, who have six homers to the Rangers' two.

"We know what we're capable of as a hitting team," Hamilton said. "There's a little disappointment, frustration, but we're not discouraged by any means. We know we haven't shown the world what Rangers baseball is all about."

So how do you do that?

"I wish I had an answer for that," Hamilton said. "I'd make a lot, lot, lot of money. I'd be counseling different teams. But I don't. All we can do is show up and continue doing things as far as working in the cages and taking BP. Everybody is focused and doing what they need to do to be on track. It's just not working out that way."

Hitting coach Clint Hurdle didn't want to give all of the club's game plan away. But he did say he'd like to see his offense get into better counts.

"When we get balls to hit in the zone, we have to barrel them up," Hurdle said. "We need to continue to fight through the at-bats. We need to string some at-bats together, and that hasn't really happened.

"Good pitching is going to shut down good hitting. They've had their share of good pitching. When we get pitches early in the counts, we need to hit them."

Several players mentioned that at times this season the Rangers have had offensive lulls and have snapped out of them with big innings. That's turned into a run of games with solid at-bats. They need one of those streaks right now if they want to get back into this World Series.

"This is a team that can do it," catcher Bengie Molina said. "We'll forget about these last few games and worry about our approach for Game 5 and only Game 5. We'll get after it. That's all we can do."

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