While the Texas Rangers have put more focus on pitching in recent seasons, their offense is proving it's still capable of causing major problems for an opposing staff.
After piling up 19 runs in their last two games against the Seattle Mariners, the first-place Rangers can capture the four-game series Thursday night as Tommy Hunter looks to build on an impressive 2010 debut.Texas (32-27) has improved its starting rotation drastically in the last two years after finishing 2008 with the worst ERA in the majors, but the team's offense has remained potent.Even with slugger Nelson Cruz on the disabled list with a hamstring strain, the Rangers have averaged 6.9 runs while winning six of nine to begin June. They scored seven runs off Seattle's Felix Hernandez in Tuesday's victory, then racked up 15 hits in a 12-2 win Wednesday night."We're swinging the bats really well over the last few weeks, doing what we're capable of doing," infielder Michael Young said. "If we keep improving on offense, we'll be in great shape at the end of the year. We're having good at-bats, working good counts, and finding ways of putting runs across."Young and Josh Hamilton both homered Wednesday, with Hamilton continuing a blistering start to the month. He's 15 for 35 (.429) with three homers and 12 RBIs in June.Hamilton's two-run shot in the first inning of a 6-1 win over Tampa Bay on Saturday helped give Hunter an early cushion, and the 23-year-old made it stand up by pitching a complete game.It was the first start for Hunter (1-0, 1.00 ERA) after beginning the season on the disabled list with an oblique strain, then spending time in the minors.The right-hander won nine games as a rookie in 2009, including a complete game in a 7-2 win over Seattle on Sept. 13. Despite a 1-2 record against the Mariners, he posted a 2.59 ERA in four starts."He gets the ball and gets back on the mound and goes after guys," Young said of Hunter. "He trusts his stuff and he's out there trying to throw good pitches and he's aggressive in the strike zone. Those are the kind of guys you want to play defense behind."The last-place Mariners (23-36) have struggled to score against most Texas pitchers this season, totaling 19 runs while going 2-7 against the Rangers. For the season, Seattle ranks 27th in the majors in runs (210) and last in home runs (33).The team's recent problems with pitching have been more surprising. The Mariners have lost five of six overall, allowing seven or more runs in each of the defeats.Ryan Rowland-Smith (0-4, 6.65) takes the mound after limiting the Angels to one run in five innings Saturday. Seattle's bullpen crumbled in an 11-2 loss, but the outing was still a promising one for the left-hander, who lost his spot in the rotation last month."Hopefully, I'll be a little more efficient next time and get deeper into the game," Rowland-Smith told the Mariners' official website.Rowland-Smith has a 1.04 ERA in eight appearances -- seven in relief -- against the Rangers. While Hamilton and Young are a combined 0 for 10 against the Australian, Vladimir Guerrero has gone 5 for 10 with a home run.