Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rangers fall to A's as skid hits four

Offensive drought extends to one run in past 37 innings
By T.R. Sullivan /

ARLINGTON -- When it was over, Chris Davis stood at the railing in front of the Rangers dugout and just stared out onto the field.

The Athletics were shaking hands, another light rain was starting to fall and the Rangers had just finished playing 37 innings over four days while managing to score only one lousy run.

"Obviously we're not playing the way we want to play," said Davis, one of several Rangers who were groping for answers after a 4-0 loss on Wednesday night at the Ballpark in Arlington.

Despite the setback, the Rangers are still six games back in the American League West behind the Angels, who also lost in Boston as the Red Sox extended their Wild Card lead to 6 1/2 games.

"We're not scoring runs, and that's always been one thing we can count on," Davis said. "We've always been able to score runs. We can't point fingers at anybody but ourselves. You want to get motivated and light a fire, but you end up putting pressure on yourself. That's what's happening to us."

Something is happening, and the Rangers appear baffled in figuring out how to stop it. Rookie pitcher Trevor Cahill held the Rangers to one hit and two walks in seven innings. Reliever Michael Wuertz set the side down in order in the eighth, and closer Andrew Bailey did the same in the ninth.

Only Marlon Byrd's second-inning bloop single that fell between shortstop Cliff Pennington and left fielder Eric Patterson was all that prevented a no-hitter. Instead, the Rangers were shut out for the third time in four games for only the second time in club history.

The last time that has happened was in 1992 against the Blue Jays, who won the World Series that year, and the Twins, who had won it the previous year. The Rangers are now 1-5 on the homestand and hitting .195 in those six games.

"Cahill has a great idea for a young guy," Byrd offered. "He has gotten a lot better. He's not the same pitcher we saw before, and we're struggling offensively."

But second baseman Ian Kinsler had a more succinct reason why Cahill was successful against the Rangers.

"He threw strikes," Kinsler said. "That's all you needed to do against us tonight is throw strikes."

All-Star right-hander Felix Hernandez started this whammy against the Rangers' offense on Sunday night, but the Athletics' three starters for this series were Brett Tomko, Edgar Gonzalez and Cahill.

Even Oakland manager Bob Geren rated the odds of his pitching staff being able to do something like this over three games in Texas were pretty high.

"The odds would be the same as if someone told me I'd be wearing a jacket tonight," Geren said, "which I was."

But cool weather in September around here is much more common than what's happened to the Rangers. This is reminiscent of those infamous playoff series against the Yankees in 1998 and '99 when Texas scored just one run in each series. That was the lowest point ever in club offensive history, but this is getting up there, considering the timing of it all.

"I don't have an explanation," manager Ron Washington said. "We're just not getting it done. You figure somebody in the lineup will get it done even if we go cold. But not the whole lineup."

The Rangers had one chance. They were down, 1-0, in the bottom of the second when Byrd led off with a single. Kinsler then drew a walk.

That brought up Nelson Cruz. He tried to bunt -- clearly trying to do so for a hit -- but he bunted the ball hard straight back to Cahill, who was able to throw to third for the force on Byrd.

"I certainly didn't give him the bunt sign," Washington bristled. "Not with runners at first and second and Nelson Cruz up there with 32 bombs."

Cahill then struck out Davis and Taylor Teagarden to end the inning. The bottom three spots in the order were 0-for-9 with seven strikeouts. Those were also the Rangers' only three at-bats with runners in scoring position and they are now 2-for-31 in those situations on the homestand.

"There is no explanation," Kinsler said. "How can you explain that, getting shutout three times in four games? It doesn't matter who you are playing. There's no way to put a finger on it. We just need to relax and get ready for the next game."

That would be against the Angels, who open a three-game series in Arlington on Friday. They are struggling almost as much as the Rangers. They have lost three in a row.

"We have to win," Byrd said. "We made it tough on ourselves, now we've got to come out and see what we can do. See if we can put a string of wins together. See if we can get a miracle."

Right now, a few runs would seem miraculous.


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