Apr. 12 @ Cleveland Indians W, 4-2
Rich Harden proved to be far more effective than in his first start as a Ranger, going six innings and allowing only two runs on five hits.
However, Nelson Cruz was once again the man of the hour, hitting a deep two-run blast to left field to win the game in the 10th inning. Cruz, Vladimir Guerrero, and Joaquin Arias continued to be the only Rangers with consistent offense.
Apr. 14 @ Cleveland Indians W, 6-2
Colby Lewis labored through 5.1 innings but gave up only two runs on three hits. He threw a ton of pitches at 117 but used them wisely, notching 10 strikeouts on the day. Four pitchers combined to hold the Indians scoreless the rest of the way, including a four-out save by Neftali Feliz.
The offense made another rare appearance in the early season as the team had 15 hits, including three doubles, and another Cruz home run. Michael Young continued to struggle at the plate, as he was the only Ranger without a hit.
The wheels also got moving as the Rangers stole a couple of bases.
Apr. 15 @ Cleveland Indians L, 2-3
This was a game of small proportions.
Matt Harrison went seven strong innings and threw only one really bad pitch. Unfortunately, it cost him the game, as it was a three-run home run by Shin-Soo Choo. David Huff went the distance for the Tribe.
All of the scoring came on two at-bats: the aforementioned Choo home run and a two-run, line-drive home run by Young in the fourth. A heartbreaking loss to be sure, but at least Young found his stroke for the moment.
Apr. 16 @ New York Yankees L, 1-5
C.J. Wilson went the distance, but that was only six innings thanks to rain. He only allowed three earned runs but got hurt early by a Chris Davis throwing error that allowed two runs.
The rain not only shortened the game but also cooled down an already chilly Rangers offense, which struck out nine times. The only run came on a sacrifice fly in the first, but it was against CC Sabathia.
Apr. 17 @ New York Yankees L, 3-7
Scott Feldman came down off his cloud in the Bronx as he got beat up by a bunch of infield hits. He matched the shortest start of his career, going only 2.1 innings and giving up four runs. Doug Mathis gave up three in 3.2 innings to round out the Yankees' scoring.
The offense tried to rally once A.J. Burnett left the game with a three-run shot by Cruz but once again got shut down by the Yankees’ bullpen. Young and Davis both had a pair of hits to hopefully get themselves going.
Apr. 18 @ New York Yankees L, 2-5
Harden looked ugly again as he had no control of the ball, allowing six walks. He threw 94 pitches, going only 3.2 innings. Dustin Nippert and Darren Oliver minimized the damage the rest of the way, allowing only a Jorge Posada home run in the seventh.
The offense was once again lethargic against the effective Andy Pettitte. On the bright side, Young had two more hits, so he may be finding himself finally.
What did we learn?
Harden is about as consistent as he is accurate with his pitches. After looking pretty good in Cleveland, he went back to his reckless self in New York. Maybe Cleveland just wasn’t good enough to take advantage of his lack of control.
I know it is early in the season, but the outlook for Harden is growing very grim.
Feliz continues to look strong and confident. It had to be hard on him not knowing what his role would be going through spring training, but he has settled down nicely and is looking more like his dominant self.
“Where did you go, Joe DiMaggio?” I don’t know that even old Joltin’ Joe could help this offense right now.
Cruz continues to hammer the ball, leading the majors with seven home runs. He is seeing the ball well and apparently needs to spend some time with his teammates and help them out.
Young appears to be finding his stroke somewhat after stringing together a couple of multi-hit games. We all knew that he would, but it is nice to see it happen.
Elvis Andrus continues to impress with his all-around abilities. He is great at the stellar defensive plays and the routine ones; now he just needs to be more consistent on the plays that fall somewhere in between.
It also appears that he may be moving to the top of the order for a little while. He seems up to the task, and Julio Borbon could use some time to rebuild his confidence.
The pitching staff has been throwing relatively well. At the very least they are pitching well enough to win some games. Unfortunately, the offense just hasn’t supported them.
It is really odd to see the team flip roles this season. It used to be that the Rangers had to score double digits to win games. However, recently it would only take five or six runs, but they can’t even seem to find that many.
The pitching staff is well aware of the team’s offensive struggles, and that has to be affecting their performance. No matter who you are, when you feel like you have to carry the whole team, you are going to struggle.
I can’t help but wonder if the new batting coach is the cause for the struggling offense. Clint Hurdle is a fine coach, but I think it is just taking a long time for the coach and players to figure each other out.
The important thing is that this team remains competitive early and doesn’t lose its way out of the race in April and May.
They have had moments of brilliance early, but now they need to find some consistency. They have the veteran leadership and the young fire, but if the two don’t show up at the same time, it does very little good.
The coming week leaves me unsure of what to expect.
Normally a trip to Boston would be something to worry about, but the Red Sox have struggled mightily early in the season, going 4-8. That gives me some hope that the Rangers can finally break through and win a couple of games.
They will start the series against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who the Rangers have traditionally hit very well, so that is another plus on their side.
They are still the Red Sox though. They could just as easily break through.
After three games in Boston, the team will come back to Arlington for a weekend series with the Detroit Tigers.
Elvis Andrus weekend should provide lots of entertainment off the field, but hopefully the best entertainment will be on the field.
It is still very early in the season, and it is not unreasonable for a team that made so many changes to still be trying to find its identity. It would be nice to get Ian Kinsler back in the lineup, but it appears that he is still a little ways away.