Offensive woes continue; skid hits five
Texas falls 7 1/2 games behind first-place Halos in AL West
ARLINGTON -- Rangers president Nolan Ryan was not ready to deliver the eulogy on the 2009 season.But standing outside the home clubhouse following a 2-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Friday night, Ryan made it clear he understands that possibly the worst offensive slump in the 38-year history of the Rangers has dragged them out of playoff contention in every possible way. "Stranger things have happened, but I'm also a realist," Ryan said. Whether it be the American League West or the Wild Card, the Rangers chances of winning anything this season have been all but scuttled by an offense that is having trouble scoring runs. The Rangers, after losing their fifth straight, are now 7 1/2 games behind the Angels in the West and seven games behind the Red Sox in the Wild Card with just 16 games to play. "It's so unusual from what you would think from this team," Ryan said. "Over the years, I've seen good-hitting teams go into a slump, but I've never seen a stretch like this where the whole team doesn't hit." Nobody has seen a stretch like this in Rangers history. For the first time in club history, the Rangers were shut out for the fourth time in five games. They have scored just one run in their past 46 innings. They managed eight hits and two walks -- the most baserunners they've had in five games -- but they were unable to manage a single run. They were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and are 0-for-27 in their past five games. They are 2-for-36 in the first seven games of what is now a 1-6 homestand. "The effort is there, but it is definitely frustrating," outfielder David Murphy said. "Just watching the games, you can see it's getting to us a little bit." Manager Ron Washington thought the Rangers were much better offensively on Friday than they have been on the rest of this homestand. But it still didn't amount to a run. "I thought we played a pretty good game tonight," Washington said. "I really felt good about the way we played. The pitchers did a good job, and the offense did a good job of getting men on base. I thought we were able to do some things offensively, we just didn't break through. The Rangers couldn't even stumble into a run the way the Angels did in the first inning against starter Tommy Hunter. Maicer Izturis drew a one-out walk off Rangers starter Tommy Hunter, who then struck out Bobby Abreu. Hunter also struck out Vladimir Guerrero on a breaking ball way outside but the pitch skipped past catcher Ivan Rodriguez and went to the backstop. Guerrero reached base, the inning stayed alive, and Torii Hunter flared a single into right field just in front of right fielder Nelson Cruz. "It's a frustrating game right now," Tommy Hunter said. That gave the Angels a 1-0 lead and they added another in the third when Guerrero smashed his 15th home run of the season. It was his 24th home run in 96 career games against the Rangers and his 14th in 48 career games at the Ballpark. But it left Hunter fuming after the game. "It was tough," Hunter said. "Those were the toughest five innings I've thrown, but I've got to do something to make a better pitch to Vlad. One run comes off the board and we're down by one instead of two. One run down instead of two is huge, especially now. Making one less mistake right now would really help us." But the Rangers were down, 2-0, after three frames and could do nothing about it. They did set a couple of things up. Chris Davis beat out a one-out single to short in the fifth, and Rodriguez lined a single to right, giving Rangers runners at the corners. But Kazmir came back to strike out Esteban German and get Ian Kinsler to fly out to end the threat. The eighth inning against right-handed reliever Kevin Jepsen was even more frustrating for the Rangers. Washington, looking for a spark, sent Julio Borbon up to pinch-hit for Rodriguez to lead off the inning. Borbon provided just that by reaching on a little dribbler up the third baseline. Hank Blalock, pinch-hitting for German, then sliced a ball down the left-field line, but Juan Rivera was able to run it down and snag it below his knees. "I don't even know what he was doing over there," Washington said. "Usually you play Hank to pull." Kinsler's single to center moved Borbon to third and Hunter threw wildly trying to get him in the process. That was his first error in center field since Aug. 31, 2007, and it allowed Kinsler to go to second. He stayed there. Borbon didn't move either. Jepsen got Elvis Andrus on a grounder to third, walked Murphy intentionally and then struck out Andruw Jones to end the inning. And the Rangers last best chance. "Things are just going the other way right now," Jones said. "We're hitting the ball at people, we get opportunities and we don't take advantage of it. The game is over. We can't do anything about it. We just have to go out there tomorrow and play better than we did today."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.