The Texas Rangers relied heavily on baseball’s most prolific offense while making an unexpected return to playoff contention. With their lineup struggling lately, however, the club finds itself in the midst of its longest skid since April.
Losers of four straight games, the Rangers look to snap out of their offensive funk and avoid a three-game sweep against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards on Sunday.
Texas (60-58) easily leads the majors with 652 runs, and also ranks in baseball’s top five with 143 home runs and a .279 batting average. That offense has helped the Rangers overcome one of the major leagues’ worst pitching staffs and a 7-16 start to the season to climb into the wild-card race.
The Rangers scored 25 runs during a three-game win streak that pulled them within five games of the wild card lead earlier this week, but have since totaled four runs during a four-game slide - their longest since dropping seven straight from April 18-24.
Texas wasn’t shut out before the All-Star break but has been held scoreless three times since, including twice in its last three games. The Rangers managed five hits in a 9-0 loss to the Orioles on Saturday night.
“We’re in a little funk right now,” Rangers manager Ron Washington told the team’s official Web site. “We just need to keep fighting and see if we can come out of it. The plan is to come out tomorrow and be the best we can be. We were scoring runs in bunches, but now it’s not happening. But we’re not panicking.”
While the Rangers have gone cold at the plate, the Orioles (56-59) are heating up. They’ve recorded a double-digit hit total in nine of their last 12 games, going 8-4 while batting .315 in that stretch.
“The kind of offensive production we got from the top of the lineup is going to go a long way for you,” Orioles manager Dave Trembley told the team’s official Web site.
The Orioles look to keep their offensive surge going for Sunday’s starter Chris Waters (1-0, 0.00 ERA), who will be trying to build on a spectacular major league debut. The left-hander held a powerful Los Angeles Angels lineup to one hit in eight innings of a 3-0 victory Tuesday.
“It’s just a great feeling,” said the 27-year-old Waters, who began his professional career in 2000. “I just went out there and tried to focus on the mitt as much as possible and keep my mind down in the zone. I came in here knowing that they were probably going to take pitches on me because I’m a rookie coming into a big stadium. So I really tried to pound the zone.”
The Rangers will hand the ball to their own rookie left-hander in Matt Harrison (3-2, 6.46), who gave up two runs in 6 1-3 innings Tuesday in his sixth major league start, an 8-6 win over the New York Yankees.
“That’s the best I’ve seen him throw since he got up here,” Rangers catcher Gerald Laird said. “As the game went on, he got a little swagger going. He commanded all his pitches. It was a huge game for his confidence.”
Each of Sunday’s starters is making his first career appearance against his opponent.