Rangers' bats starting to wake up

CHICAGO -- The Texas Rangers' pitching staff has been strong early in the season, and slowly but surely it appears the bats are beginning to wake up as well. Tuesday night was Adrian Beltre’s turn to start swinging a hot stick. On a night when the wind seemed to be knocking down everything hit to left field, Beltre was able to line one into the stands to give the Rangers a 4-0 lead over the Chicago Cubs.

“I hit it good -- I was just waiting for the wind to die down a little bit so I can swing the bat,” Beltre said with a laugh. “No, I hit it good, I didn’t know it was going to go out -- I knew it had a chance. I was just looking for a pitch I could drive to get that run in, and lucky enough, I did.”

Beltre went 2-for-4 on the evening, with his big two-run homer, a double and two runs scored in the Rangers’ 4-2 victory over the Cubs.

“We expect to be better,” Beltre said of the Rangers’ offense. “I don’t think we’re where we want to be right now. We know we’re going to be better; we have such great talent on this ball club. It’s nothing to worry about, we’re gonna be better. But it’s always good to know the pitching staff has been solid, and hopefully it stays that way. It’s like they say: You go as far as the pitching staff will take you.”

The Rangers’ staff has put up a 2.85 ERA with 113 strikeouts and 35 walks in 123 innings pitched, while only a few bats have performed early on.

Derek Holland, who picked up the win by giving up just two hits and striking out six in seven scoreless innings, has never been concerned with what the offense does; he knows they’ve been there for him in the past and they’ll continue to show up in the future.

“They’re always capable of it,” Holland said. “I’m not worried about it; my main thing is if I go out there and make my pitches, everything else is gonna fall into place. It’s just a matter of time. They’ve done things for me -- they gave me the highest run support (in the past), so I’ll take whatever I can get. As long as I’m out there doing my job, that’s all that matters.”

The Rangers built a four-run lead, but things got a little tight in the ninth inning. After getting two quick outs, the Cubs managed to load the bases and pinch hitter Nate Schierholtz knocked in a pair of runs as left fielder Jeff Baker failed to make a diving catch on Schierholtz’s line drive.

Washington left Baker in left field in the late-inning situation because he had used his only other utility infielder, Leury Garcia, to pinch hit earlier in the game. That left him with only Baker as a backup infielder in an emergency situation.

“I put myself in a corner; I pinch-hit Garcia -- that was my only coverage on the infield,” manager Ron Washington said. “I take Baker out and something happens, I’m through, I have no coverage. He’d been making all the plays out there all night, he just ended up trying to make one he didn’t make.”

But Washington and the Rangers were saved by center fielder Craig Gentry’s brilliant play in center. With two down, the bases loaded and the Cubs trailing by two, second baseman Darwin Barney looped a ball into center that hung up just long enough for Gentry to make a sliding grab to end the game.

“I was not worried at all,” Washington said. “I was thinking four runs -- we’ll get an out before they got four or five. We ended up doing; it took a great play in center, but we did it. One of the best catches I’ve seen this year. It saved the game for us.”

Beltre, who is known to make a defensive gem or two himself at the hot corner, was impressed by Gentry’s performance.

“Unbelievable, I saw that go in center field and how low it was -- I thought he had no chance,” Beltre said. “He came over and made a great, unbelievable save for us.”