Ron Washington put the plight of the Texas Rangers very succinctly.
“I need a bat,” the Rangers manager said.
Any bat. But preferably a big bat capable of hitting something out of the ballpark.
And that was before Washington watched the Yankees’ Hiroki Kuroda twirl a masterpiece against his club. Before he saw Kuroda and two relievers hold his Rangers to seven hits, none of them for extra bases, in a 2-0 shutout on a steamy Thursday afternoon.
If hitting is contagious, not hitting has downright infected the entire clubhouse. The Rangers scored just 17 runs on their seven-game homestand and have been shut out six times this year, one more already than last season. This game marked their 10th of the year without an extra-base hit, equaling 2012’s output. Texas is also 0-11 when it’s scored only one run.
As Washington said, he badly needs a bat. He assumes the hammer will fall soon on his home run leader Nelson Cruz for his involvement with the Biogenesis Clinic, an association that cost Ryan Braun and promises to engulf more players.
If Cruz is smart, he’s already negotiating with major-league baseball in hope of being slapped with a punishment below the 50-game penalty prescribed for first-time offenders using performance-enhancing drugs. Settle it now and maybe Cruz returns near the end of the regular season with a chance to help the Rangers and his own chances of landing a lucrative contract as a free agent this winter.
In the meantime, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels has a phone attached to his ear as he searches for a power-hitting corner outfielder. Thursday’s loss in which no Ranger touched third base and Kuroda, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera retired 11 of the last 12 Texas batters screamed for help before the July 31 trading deadline.
Alex Rios, where are you?
Hunter Pence, come on down.
Kendrys Morales, pick a new uniform number.
Texas needs something, somebody. With a pulse.
The Rangers bats have gone cold. Or worse. Dead. They rank sixth in batting average in the American League and ninth in runs. Every other legitimate AL playoff contender scores more.
I say try to pry Pence out of the Bay. He’ll be a free agent this winter, and on Wednesday the Giants trailed the rampaging Dodgers by 7 1/2 games in the NL West and were 11 1/2 games behind the Reds for the second wild-card spot.
Pence could be the perfect Ranger. Think Rusty Greer.
He’s everything Texas needs. Credible power with 14 homers this year and an average of more than 21 over the past seven seasons. Hustles so much he once dove for a ball when outfielders played long toss between innings. He’s homegrown and a driven, high-energy player, something Rios is definitely not.
Rios got benched for loafing in Chicago after the All-Star break. Seattle’s trying to finish with a winning season to save management jobs and may not part with Morales. Everybody wants Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton, but Texas may not be able to afford him without offering Jurickson Profar, Martin Perez and God knows who all else on the farm. Miami’s Justin Ruggiano might make a nice addition, but he’s hitting only .201 with his 12 homers.
It’s pretty obvious Texas is going to do something before next Wednesday, and one club official told me Manny Ramirez, now at Triple-A Round Rock, isn’t the obvious answer because “his bat’s too slow.”
The Rangers aren’t used to having to manufacture runs, but there was Washington putting on the hit-and-run, only to see Elvis Andrus swing through a Kuroda sinker and exposing baserunner Ian Kinsler to an easy throwout at second. End of rally.
“Yeah, I was trying to do my job,” Andrus said. “Sometimes you make a good hit-and-run, you wake up the guys.”
Somebody needs to be aroused.
“This is a different offense but it’s an effective offense if everybody plays up to his capabilities,” Washington said. “We’re not getting it on a regular basis. You think (David) Murphy’s playing up to his capability? We need guys to do what they’ve always done like what’s on the back of their trading cards.”
Actually only three regulars are hitting far below their career averages, but Murphy’s dropped off 61 points and Andrus 26 points. With Lance Berkman a shell of himself and now on the disabled list, the offense’s prospects look bleak.
Asked about the lack of offensive support for him Thursday, Rangers starter Derek Holland said, “I don’t think about it. I’ve just got to do my job. Besides, I know what our offense is capable of.”
So does Daniels, which is why he’s on the phone.