BY: Richard W. Humphrey
The Rangers erupted for seven runs last night, the most they have scored in a game this year and just the second time they have done so. The scoring included six runs in the fifth inning, the biggest offensive inning of the season. Texas has now scored 61 runs of the season, well below the 94 they scored last year in the first 16 games. Prior to last night’s game, the Rangers had scored four or fewer runs in seven consecutive games and were 3-4 in that span. With 10% of the schedule in the books, the Texas pitching staff, both starters and relievers have been really good. At this point, the offense is perhaps the biggest question mark for the team.
Certainly, the newcomers are doing fine. Lance Berkman is batting .385 with nine RBI’s, despite failing to have enough at-bats to officially qualify as a league leader after sitting out the Cubs’ series this week. A. J. Pierzynski is solid at .286. Both have a pair of home runs, second on the team to Ian Kinsler’s five. Pierzynski in particular is getting more playing time over Geovany Soto because his bat is needed in the lineup.
There are strugglers though. Mitch Moreland is hitting .163 with just four RBI’s. Leonys Martin is under .200 too at .192. He hasn’t driven in a run yet this season, and has scored just four. In fact, Craig Gentry drove in a run Friday night, the first of the year for a Ranger center fielder. Elvis Andrus is just barely over the Mendoza line at .206. Batting second, his most important stat is on base percentage, as he needs to be on base for the middle of the order to drive him in. His is a pitiful .273. It’s clearly a less powerful team. The Rangers as a team have hit 16 home runs, a pace that projects to 162 to for the season. They hit 200 last year.
The first reason for the offensive drought is the weather. It was cold in Seattle last weekend and colder in Chicago this week. The official start time temperature at Friday’s game was 62 degrees, the highest it has been since April 9 in Arlington. It’s undeniable that the cold retards offense. This may be a major reason the Rangers’ offense is languishing, but it is not necessarily good news. The Rangers’ pitching has been somewhere between good and spectacular. Hopefully, the pitchers are pitching well, not simply recording good numbers becaus the weather is cold.
This team almost always hits better at home. Last night’s explosion came at home after struggling on the road. More games have been played on the road so far this year, so that’s a part of the problem. That will eventually even out, but not soon as seven of the next nine games are on the road. In any event, this team is not the offensive unit that Ranger fans have become accustomed to in recent years.
The answer may ultimately be top prospect Jurickson Profar. It’s possible, though not likely that Profar will get his feet on the ground at AAA Round Rock and be summoned to give the batting order a spark later in the season. Where to play him is really in question, barring an injury. Andrus and Kinsler are now signed to long term contracts, and they are very good at their positions. If Profar is to help this year, it will more likely be as part of a trade to land a major middle of the order hitter for this lineup. GM Jon Daniels simply has to be considering moving Profar more than ever before. This is a good team if it scores enough runs. Profar is still a prospect, not a proven commodity. His trade value may never be higher.
In 2010, the Rangers sent out highly touted prospect Justin Smoak as the major return to Seattle in the trade that landed Cliff Lee. Lee proved to be the key to winning two playoff series to reach the World Series. Profar might be this year’s Justin Smoak.
COCKTAIL CONVERSATION: The Rangers followed the trend by playing “Sweet Caroline” between innings at last night’s game. The Neil Diamond classic is the theme song of the Boston Red Sox, and the Rangers played the tune to honor the heroics and remember the lost lives this week in Boston. Interestingly, it was the Red Sox hated rivals, the New York Yankees that started the trend last Tuesday night. Also, the first Red Sox home game since the bombs went off near last Monday’s Boston Marathon finish line was played this Saturday afternoon. Neil Diamond was there in person to sing “Sweet Caroline”.
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