Rangers struggle to find offensive rhythm

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers didn't try to make any excuses after another slow night at the plate.

The tired Rangers, arriving back at 5 a.m. Friday morning after a long plane ride home from Seattle, managed just three hits in Friday's 4-1 loss to the Yankees. But they know that fatigue wasn't to blame for the lackluster offensive performance.

Ivan Nova, a pitcher the Rangers jumped on for five runs on four hits and drew five walks off of in just 4 1/3 innings April 15, baffled the Texas hitters Friday. The Rangers beat the ball into the dirt, hitting into 16 ground ball outs. The top four hitters in the lineup -- Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Michael Young and Adrian Beltre -- were a combined 0-for-16 with three strikeouts. Only twice did the ball ever leave the infield from that group of batters. Kinsler is batting .223 on the season and Beltre is at .238.

Yes, it hurts not having 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton or slugger Nelson Cruz in the lineup. But this team should be deep enough to withstand those absences and still score runs. They just aren't doing it right now. Texas has 16 runs in the last six games, an average of 2.66. They are 1-5 in those contests and need to win the next two games against the Yankees to avoid losing seven of their last eight series.

After a 9-1 start, Texas is 8-15. They aren't getting the clutch hits they did during the hot start, hitting just .235 (8-for-34) with runners in scoring position the last seven games.

"I think it's a matter of getting it done," said outfielder David Murphy, who was 1-for-3 on Friday and is batting .250 with one homer and seven RBIs since Hamilton went down with the injury, making Murphy a starter. "We're just not getting it done. Obviously, we're at a point right now where it's a loss for words. The only thing that's going to change the frustration is success and winning."

Murphy thinks one key might be for players to avoid the temptation to fill their heads with swing thoughts and approaches. It's almost like the golfer who has so many things in his head that he can't confidently hit solid shots.

"There's no reason to pick our brain and analyze it like crazy," Murphy said. "One day there's going to be a spark and we're going to start getting guys on base and start driving guys in and it's going to start happening every day. Our offense is going to start living up to what we're capable of."

They'd like for that to happen soon. This homestand doesn't get any easier. The Rangers still have two more against the Yankees, including ace CC Sabathia. Then the A's and Angels come to town.

"We'll keep battling," Washington said. "You get spells like this in the game of baseball. We will come out of it. There will be a pitcher that toes that rubber and we'll get to him."