Rangers offense stalls in the clutch

ARLINGTON, Texas -- One by one, the Texas Rangers' hitters marched out of a back room in the clubhouse and toward their lockers about 15 minutes after an abysmal performance in Saturday's 5-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

The offensive players had called the meeting. Manager Ron Washington and his staff weren't in the room, and didn't need to tell anyone that a talk was necessary. The Rangers knew.

They are a dreadful .195 (30-for-154) with runners in scoring position in July. Only the Houston Astros (.175) are worse in the month. Texas was 0-for-13 in those situations Saturday. In fact, the Rangers are hitless with runners in scoring position in their past 19 chances. The club's veteran offensive leaders felt that level of mediocrity needed a meeting.

"You saw it tonight," Craig Gentry said. "As an offense, we need to dial it in a little more and relax. Tonight, we had a guy on third, less than two outs, a few different times and couldn't get the job done. We were talking about approaches and trying to go out and relax and hopefully everything else will take care of itself."

The offensive swoon the Rangers are in has fans forgetting about the impressive numbers this club put up in April and May. Since June 1, the club's ability to hit in the clutch has steadily declined. After hitting close to or better than .300 with runners in scoring position in the season's first two months, the club sported a .261 average in those situations in June. That was just 14th in the big leagues. The Rangers had the fifth-worst mark in baseball in July with runners in scoring position before putting up the 0-for-13 on Saturday.

Still, the club was batting .280 overall for the season, which tells you how good Texas was before things started to slip.

But those are the kinds of situations a good offensive lineup must convert. And the Rangers aren't doing it right now.

"I think we're capable of more," Michael Young said. "This isn't foreign territory to anyone. We've all been down this road before. We know what it's like for a team to go through a stretch where you don't get good results and what it's like to make adjustments. So we'll do that.

"We believe in the guy next to us. We have a very high confidence level. It's a matter of just staying the course. Having good concentration and just competing."

Hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh expressed disappointment in the at-bats in key situations, especially with a runner at third and fewer than two outs. That was a situation in which the Rangers excelled while piling up massive run totals the first six weeks of the season. But they haven't been nearly as successful since.

"It's to a point where we're not having good at-bats," Coolbaugh said. "You can bring up stuff as much as you want and I could get into their head a little bit, but bottom line, they know we're not getting runners in consistently. We work on it and batting practice and you try to weather the storm. We're striking out or not hitting the ball far enough or grounding out with the infield in. Nothing right now is clicking for us offensively in those situations. Mentally, you have to keep grinding it out and keep working with them, and hopefully we break through."

Coolbaugh said a club should be able to get a runner home from third with less than two outs 55 to 60 percent of the time.

"That's a good standard. Every one of them? Obviously not," Coolbaugh said. "There's going to be pitchers out there that can make pitches but we've had some opportunities with guys out there that fundamentally we should be able to get guys in. Our hitters are too good not to get those guys in."

In four separate innings Saturday the Rangers had a runner in scoring position with no outs. Only once -- in the ninth inning, already down 5-1 -- did they score him, and that was on a ground ball out. In the fourth, Adrian Beltre stood at second and Nelson Cruz at first with no outs, and David Murphy's strikeout was followed by a Young ground ball double play to end the inning.

After Mike Napoli's homer to lead off the fifth put the Rangers on the board, Leonys Martin doubled. He went to third on Gentry's ground ball to short. But Ian Kinsler struck out, and Elvis Andrus grounded out.

It happened again in the seventh, after Young tripled and Napoli walked to start things off. Martin struck out on a 3-2 changeup, Gentry struck out on a fastball and Kinsler's bloop to left field was caught thanks to a great diving grab by Dayan Viciedo.

When an offense isn't clicking, those are the kinds of things that happen.

"It's always frustrating to not get a guy in from third with less than two outs, regardless if it's happened or hasn't happened a lot," Kinsler said. "That's a situation you have to score. It's part of the game. Obviously offensively, we're not clicking the way we want to, and we're going to keep going and play again tomorrow. This game doesn't stop."

They hope to get more chances -- and to convert them -- starting Sunday. After all, the Los Angeles Angels come to Arlington for four games starting Monday.