You know how Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington kept telling us and telling us that the offense would finally come around? Well, here we go.
At perhaps the best possible time this season, the Rangers, collectively, have generated the kind of offense that we expected from them all season, even with the departure of Josh Hamilton. It also comes at the oddest possible time, as the Rangers’ most critical power source, outfielder Nelson Cruz, has been out of the lineup for more than two weeks due to his 50-game Biogenesis suspension.
One would have expected the relatively quiet Rangers bats to go completely silent. I mean, Cruz just led the Rangers in home runs and RBI all season. That’s all.
The Rangers are back in first place in the AL West, though Oakland shows no signs of letting up.
From June 1 to July 28, a span of 51 games, the Rangers scored 3.51 runs per game. Only the San Francisco Giants and the Houston Astros scored fewer runs per game during that span.
Starting July 29 (when Cruz was still active) and going through Monday’s eye-popping 16-5 win against Houston, the Rangers averaged 6.35 runs per game. During that 20-game span the Rangers scored nearly a run per game more than the next-closest team in baseball.
As you might expect, that offensive resurrection has led to victories, in the form of a 17-4 record since July 29, including Tuesday’s 4-2 win over Houston. The Rangers are back in first place in the AL West, though Oakland shows no sign of letting up. Only the Los Angeles Dodgers – who are on a two-month streak of historic proportions – are hotter than the Rangers.
Cruz’s suspension certainly left a power vacuum. Consider this – Adrian Beltre’s home run in the sixth inning Tuesday night made him just the third Ranger to hit at least one home run in the past seven days. Beltre’s homer also snapped his 13-day streak without a home run.
So … what on earth is going on here? From where I sat Tuesday night, three things.
First, let’s go back to Beltre. Sure, he hadn’t hit a home run in 13 days, but he’s hitting nearly everything in sight. Entering Tuesday’s game Beltre was hitting .422 since Cruz took a seat on Aug. 5. The Astros respected him so much during Monday’s game that they intentionally walked him on two straight at-bats to start the game.
That hadn’t happened to a Ranger since 1979. Without Cruz’s protection in the order, Beltre has raised his game to an MVP level. Too bad there’s that Miguel Cabrera guy in Detroit.
“He’s been getting it done in situations in which we’ve needed him to get it done,” Washington said. “That’s what Beltre is about. It seems like every time we go down the stretch he’s right there to do it. We certainly needed him tonight.”
Second, there’s the runnin’ Rangers. The Rangers wanted a power bat at the trade deadline and couldn’t pull off a deal. They managed to snag Alex Rios instead. When they did they had three of the top six base-stealers in the AL – Rios, Elvis Andrus and Leonys Martin.
Plus, there’s Ian Kinsler, Jurickson Profar and Craig Gentry. The Rangers had stolen 24 bases in Cruz’s absence entering Tuesday’s game and have become a team that generates runs in various ways. The days of waiting for the three-run home run are long gone, but what the Rangers are doing now is taking it to a whole new level.
Third, clutch hitting. Finally. Beltre’s home run gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead Tuesday night. A.J. Pierzynski, who seems to be emerging from some mid-summer struggles at the plate, has nine hits with runners in scoring position this month and 15 RBI. Gentry’s bat is coming around. Martin is warming to hitting leadoff and is a true table-setter.
Timing is everything in sports. It’s just hard to believe that this time, of all times, would be when the Rangers would finally get it going on offense.
No Cruz, no problem? For now, at least.