Cool bats: Rangers 'need to get it in gear'

SEATTLE -- For about the last dozen years, four runs allowed by Texas Rangers pitchers and defense have been anything but insurmountable. That’s generally been more like an inconvenience, about to be overcome by a barrage of Texas hitting, runs scored -- and wins.

Not so far this month.

But no one is sounding alarms or calling for massive change.

Not yet.

The offense is as cool as the 30- and 40-degree temperatures in which Texas’ last five games (four in Seattle and a cold one in Arlington on Wednesday) have been played. Pitching and defense -- not hitting – are keeping the Rangers in games right now.

“It’s still early, and the good thing is our pitching staff has done a good job keeping us in games. But our offense definitely needs to get it in gear sooner than later,” David Murphy said after he went 1-for-4 to raise his average to .160 and add to the Rangers’ six hits Sunday in a 4-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners at chilly Safeco Field.

The Rangers split the series with 2012’s last place team in the AL West, while scoring 11 runs in four games.

The Rangers have scored a total of 10 runs in their five defeats this season. Through 13 games heading into Tuesday’s series opener against the Cubs in what is expected to be chilly and wet Chicago, Texas is ninth in the American League in runs scored (49) and ninth in batting average (.251).

(The Rangers, by the way, haven’t hit below .260 for a season since 1992.)

Yes, it’s early enough for one at-bat can swing a guy’s average many points. So early that parkas and beanies are the gear of choice in dugouts and bullpens. Yet if the Rangers kept this pace of 3.77 runs scored per game, it would be their lowest average in a season -- outside a strike-shortened year -- since 1982.

“The effort is there. The preparation is right,” said Murphy, who had an RBI single in Thursday’s series-opening 4-3 win in Seattle. “We’re just not clicking. That can happen in April.”

“The bottom line is we have a good record, but we have not been playing to our potential,” he said.

On Sunday the Rangers lost to Brandon Maurer, a rookie who was in Double-A last year and had allowed six runs in each of his first two major league starts this month, both losses. Maurer didn’t survive the first inning in his previous start against the Houston Astros here last week.

But Texas got five hits and just two earned runs in six innings off Maurer, now 1-2 with a 9.95 ERA. Once he left leading 4-3, the Rangers had Mitch Moreland at second base and one out in the seventh inning. Then, poof, Elvis Andrus struck out on a high slider from Stephen Pryor and Craig Gentry watched Pryor’s 97 mph fastball go across his thighs for strike three to end the threat.

In the eighth, Adrian Beltre walked with one out and got to third on Murphy’s bloop hit. Rangers manager Ron Washington chose to stay with Geovany Soto against left-hander Oliver Perez, rather than pinch hit with one of his resting regulars such as Ian Kinsler or A.J. Pierzynski. Soto got a 1-2 count to 3-2 before he flied out to doom that chance.

“I thought Geovany was going to get him there,” Washington said of his backup catcher, who was starting the day game after a night tilt.

The Rangers went down in order in the ninth, with Moreland, rookie Leury Garcia -- making his second consecutive start -- and Andrus succumbing to Seattle closer Tom Wilhelmsen.

“For sure, we’re still fighting out there. We’re still grinding, trying to find something,” said Andrus, who is now batting .220 after going 0-for-5.

“We’ve got to keep grinding. We’ve still got a long way to go.”