Rangers turn pressure up on the bases

Even before Nelson Cruz accepted his 50-game suspension from MLB, the Rangers had preached doing more of the little things to get on base and create runs.

But once the slugger exited, manufacturing runs had to become more of a priority. Cruz was this club's top home run hitter and run producer, and no one was going to make up for that by swinging the bat harder and hoping for more long balls.

Last night was a prime example of that versatile Rangers offense.

They scored a whopping 11 runs in the third inning of a 16-5 win over the Houston Astros and did it without a home run. In fact, they had one extra-base hit in the frame. It was about singles, taking advantage of fielding mistakes by the Astros and stealing bases.

As ESPN Stats & Information notes, since Aug. 5, when the suspensions came down, the Rangers have scored 6.6 runs per game, tops in the league. And they've done that despite just six home runs hit.

The Rangers have the third-best on-base percentage since Cruz left the lineup, thanks in large part to drawing walks. The Rangers have the third-best walk rate in that span, too.

The club has 24 stolen bases since Aug. 5. No team in the majors has been more aggressive on the bases than the Rangers, who lead the league in swipes since that time.

The reality is the club needed this type of offense even before Cruz exited. But now that he's out, they've been even more aggressive.

Sometimes it's gotten them into trouble (see Sunday's game against the Mariners when they weren't as smart as they needed to be on the bases). But more often it's produced runs and put major pressure on the opponent.

At the same time, it's taken pressure off the lineup to feel like they've got to smash the ball everywhere in order to win games.