In the four game series against the Tigers last weekend, the Rangers collectively hit .350. They scored 29 runs, hit 5 home runs, and won 3 out of 4 games. They outscored the lead leader in scoring 29-16.
In that series, they faced these pitchers and their respective ERAs:
Justin Verlander (1.93) Rangers win 10-4
Rick Porcello (6.68) Rangers lose 2-1
Anibal Sanchez (2.05) Rangers win 7-2
Doug Fister (3.06) Rangers win 11-8
Then Oakland came to town. And the offense just stopped. I mean it absolutely ended. There was no offense. The Rangers scored 5 runs total in 3 games. They hit .174 as a team, and in the first two games the A’s pitchers only faced 2 batters over the minimum 27. In the third game, the one the Rangers actually won, they only faced 28 batters.
In that series, they faced these pitches and their respective ERAs:
Bartolo Colon (4.56) Rangers lose 9-2
Dan Straily (7.27) Rangers lose 1-0
Jarrod Parker (6.04) Rangers win 3-1
Do you see a trend here? Look at the ERAs of the pitchers and how the Rangers offense fared. In the Tigers series the Rangers faced 3 pitchers with ERAs right at 3.00 or better. They won those three games and scored 28 runs. In fact, the only game the Rangers lost against the Tigers was with Porcello and his 6.68 ERA on the mound. They only scored 1 run off Porcello, while they put 8 on Verlander, 6 on Sanchez, and 5 on Fister. But there’s more to the story here.
Here’s the Ranger team batting average against the starters in the Tiger series:
Rick Porcello: .280
Anibal Sanchez: .256
Doug Fister: .278
So, they had their best batting average in the game they only scored 1 run and lost. What’s going on here? In the game against Porcello, the Rangers outhit the Tigers 8-6. But could only score 1 run on those 8 hits. They left 14 runners on base, and were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position (RISP). In the first game of the series they were 3 for 9 with RISP. In the third game they were 4 for 17, and in the fourth game they were 7 for 16. What plagued the Rangers against Porcello is part of what plagued them against the A’s and what has been their achilles hill all season. They just can’t hit with runners in scoring position.
In the A’s series they didn’t face a single pitcher with less than 4.00 ERA, and the offense was awful. In fact, even in the game they won, against Parker, the team didn’t score a single run after the first inning. Against Straily, the worst pitcher they faced, they didn’t get a runner past 1st base and only had three hits total. The three guys that got those hits? The bottom three in the lineup: Gentry, Profar, and Pierzynski. Gentry hasn’t seen regular playing time all season, Profar had just been called up the day before, while Pierzynski was playing in his first game off the DL. In other words, the Rangers regular starters couldn’t touch a guy with a 7+ ERA.
As far as hitting with RISP, they were 0 for 4 against Colon, didn’t even have a runner in scoring position against Straily, and were 0 for 1 against Parker. So, not only could the Rangers not hit against more inferior pitching, compared to what they faced against Detroit, they also didn’t take advantage of the limited opportunities they had. At one point, in the first game against Colon, they had grounded into 3 double plays in the first 4 innings.
The prime example of this frustration is Nelson Cruz. The Boomstick hasn’t had a hit since May 17. He’s 0 for his last 21 at bats and has a .171 average over his last 10 games. He’s hitting .169 for the month of May.
But then again, it seems we always come back to this:
The Rangers are still 30-17 and have the second best record in the Major Leagues (St. Louis has one less loss). They have a 5.5 game lead over Oakland, a 10 game lead over Seattle, and most importantly (kidding) a 10.5 game lead over Anaheim. Imagine what this team could do if they were hitting better than .252 with runners in scoring position and actually took advantage of the bad pitchers they face.