Missing in the Metroplex: Where have the Rangers' big bats gone?

After looking dominant in establishing a 2-0 ALDS lead over the Tampa Bay Rays, the Texas Rangers looked certain to win their first postseason series. All the Rangers had to do was win one game in Arlington.

Of course, the Rays won Games 3 and 4 over the weekend to turn this series 180 degrees. Game 5 in St. Petersburg is scheduled for Tuesday night.

Texas now faces the prospect of joining the 2001 Oakland A's as the only teams to win the first two games of a first-round division series on the road, only to then lose the next three and be eliminated from the playoffs.

That's quite a bit to chew on with Monday's off-day in the series. Last Friday, with a day off between Games 2 and 3, Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena called a team meeting, telling his fellow Rays to take a deep breath and forget about the playoff pressure.

Asked whether the Rangers might do the same thing, Michael Young(notes) insisted that there's no need for a team meeting. They know what they have to do Tuesday night. Everyone knows what's at stake.

But maybe it wouldn't hurt if the Rangers huddled up in the clubhouse and someone reminded Young, Josh Hamilton(notes) and Vladimir Guerrero(notes) that it would really help their cause if the trio began hitting. Overall in this series, Texas' Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters are batting a combined .200 (9-for-45).

Yes, Young had one of the biggest hits of this series, with a three-run homer in Game 2 that dropped the Rays to the mat. But he has two hits in his other 15 at-bats.

Josh Hamilton might be from Venus, but in these four games against the Rays, he's hit like he's from Uranus, batting 2-for-14. Hamilton went hitless in the two games at Arlington, and looks rusty after taking most of September off to nurse his fractured ribs.

Then there's the clean-up man. Vladimir Guerrero has a respectable four hits in 15 at-bats. But he's only driven in one run, which is hardly cleaning up. In Game 4, Guerrero came up with two runners on and one out, but hit into an inning-ending double play. With the bases loaded in the fifth, he struck out chasing a slider far out of the zone. Coming through in either of those situations might have changed the ballgame.

Nelson Cruz(notes) is the only Rangers hitter currently swinging a big stick. He's batting .313 in the series (5-for-16), with a hit in each of the series' four games. Cruz blasted three home runs, but each of them came with no one on base. It's yet another indictment of the hitters batting in front of Cruz.

Young, Hamilton and Guerrero combined for 82 home runs and 306 RBIs during the regular season. For the Rangers to move on to the ALCS, let alone have any chance against the Yankees, at least one of those bats has to start swinging big again.

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