Rangers believe the runs will come
This October, Texas is hitting .186, has scraped together four runs in two World Series games and is thrilled to be tied with the Cardinals heading into Saturday night's Game 3 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
For a team that piled up 855 runs during the regular season -- trailing only the Yankees and Red Sox -- and boasted the second-ranked slugging percentage (.460) in the American League, clawing for offense is not a very familiar feeling.
But after failing to solve the Giants' pitchers last year, the Rangers must find a way to punch holes in a St. Louis staff that has tightened up considerably this month. In Thursday night's 2-1 comeback victory on another chilly night at Busch Stadium, Texas erased a 1-0 deficit in the ninth inning with heads-up baserunning and a pair of sacrifice flies. It was the first time in World Series history that the tying and go-ahead runs were scored in that fashion.
"We're humble," Elvis Andrus said. "Right now, it's not about how many hits we're going to get or how many home runs we're going to hit. It's what we have to do to win games."
That's not to say the Rangers' offensive struggles necessarily will continue, especially with temperatures expected to be in the 70s for the next three games in Arlington. But if runs remain at a premium, the two-time AL champs believe they can do whatever it takes this year.
"We're very capable of scoring runs in many different ways," Ian Kinsler said. "We just need to open up all those different avenues."
That certainly was the case in Game 2, in which Texas had only three hits and one runner in scoring position through the first eight innings. But Kinsler opened the ninth with a bloop single to leftfield, pulled off a daring steal of second, took third on Andrus' single and scored on Josh Hamilton's sacrifice fly.
Also crucial to the rally: Andrus alertly took second when Albert Pujols failed to cut off centerfielder Jon Jay's throw (Pujols, who said the ball ticked off his glove, was charged with an error after the game). Andrus went to third on Hamilton's fly ball and scored the go-ahead run on Michael Young's sacrifice fly.
Those types of little things loom large in October, and the Rangers, once portrayed as mashers, consider themselves a more balanced offense. "I think it's been a 360-degree change," Ron Washington said. "We believe as an organization that you have to be complete. You have to be able to play every single part of the game. We committed ourselves to play baseball."
The Rangers probably are less complete than they would like to be, given the shaky health of Hamilton, who has been battling a left groin strain for the past two months. Hamilton is hitless (0-for-7) with two strikeouts in the first two games and the Rangers' 3-4-5 batters are 4-for-22 (.182) with five strikeouts and two RBIs.
It's not a trend that Texas expects to continue. The Rangers tied the Red Sox for the top home batting average (.296) during the regular season, and their 498 runs at home led the AL. They also hit the most home runs (126), had the highest slugging percentage (.508) and recorded the third-best on-base percentage (.353) at home.
As for the offensive dip in St. Louis, they didn't sound overly concerned before Friday's workout. "I think, honestly, we just got out of our approach a little bit," Kinsler said. "Maybe we were a little too aggressive. Trying to get things that weren't there. We just need to relax and play our style of baseball."
The Rangers may have altered the perception of exactly what that is with Thursday's dramatic win. But they wouldn't mind blowing open a few games during the next couple of days. "Last year, we ended up allowing the Giants to have some big innings on us," Washington said. "So far, they haven't been that. But stay tuned. It'll happen."