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09/22/10 2:54 AM ET
Rangers out of sorts in loss to Angels
Cruz's ill-advised bunt exemplifies Texas' recent woes
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Nelson Cruz tried to bunt for hit. That's not what manager Ron Washington wanted to see in that situation ... or in any situation, really. "I was trying to get on base," Cruz explained. "I didn't feel the best today. ... Take a shot and see if you can get on base." He didn't. Angels pitcher Ervin Santana threw him out easily on his way to a five-hit shutout and a 2-0 victory over the Rangers on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium. Vladimir Guerrero had led off the seventh with a walk when Cruz came up to the plate. The Rangers were down two. Washington was not looking for his best power hitter to bunt. "Definitely not," Washington said. "One swing of the bat can get you two runs. Leave that to the guys who can do it. That's not a message you want to send to a pitcher when you're a guy who can hit the ball out of the park." That's also not the message that Washington and hitting coach Clint Hurdle sent to their hitters in pregame meetings as the Rangers tried to snap out of their West Coast hitting slump. The basic message sent before the Rangers faced Santana was to relax, quit pressing, quit trying to do too much and play their normal game. They didn't do that on a night when the Athletics won again in Oakland. Instead, the West Coast slump continues as the Rangers lost for the fourth time in five games. Their lead is now down to seven in the American League West and the Rangers have one more game with the Angels before opening a four-game series with the Athletics on Thursday in Oakland. The American League West could get interesting if the Rangers don't start scoring runs again. "We just need to push a couple of runs across the plate when we get a chance," Washington said. "If we do that, everything else will take care of itself." Before the Rangers headed to the West Coast, they had seemingly taken control of the division with a seven-game winning streak. During those seven games, Texas hit .318 with a .386 on-base percentage and a .471 slugging percentage while scoring 51 runs. The club hit .282 with runners in scoring position. But during this five-game road trip, the Rangers are hitting .247 with a .296 on-base percentage and a .322 slugging percentage. They have scored 12 runs in five games, including six in their only victory. They are 7-for-41 (.171) with runners in scoring position, including 0-for-6 against Santana. "We didn't get anything going," outfielder David Murphy said. "He's a good pitcher, but ... you know, I think we could have scratched out a few runs. We just need to get back to playing our brand of baseball. "We realize the lead we're playing with. We shouldn't be putting pressure on ourselves. The pressure should be on the teams behind us. We need to tighten it up a little bit or maybe loosen it up a little. We don't look like we're having as much fun as we can." Santana must have had something to do with that. He is a 17-game winner who allowed five hits and one walk and struck out eight. "They're a great team," Santana said. "It's not easy. It takes a lot of focus. I had to throw strikes and everything was good." Rangers starter Colby Lewis, who has had to deal with meager run support before, couldn't quite keep up with Santana. He held the Angels to two runs on four hits and two walks while striking out 10. He is the first Rangers pitcher with five 10-strikeout games since Nolan Ryan had eight and Bobby Witt had seven in 1990. But this was the sixth time this season he has suffered a loss while delivering a quality start, and he is now 11-13 with a 3.79 ERA. "Santana is always going to be tough," Lewis said. "He's got a great record. It's always fun to go out and be in duels like that. But they pushed a couple of runs across, and that was it. You'd like to win those duels, but he had good stuff and we couldn't lock it in." The Angels took a 1-0 lead in the second inning after catcher Hank Conger, making only his fourth Major League start, led off with a triple high off the right-center-field wall. He scored as Kevin Frandsen grounded out to right side. They added another run in the fourth inning. This time Hideki Matsui led off with a double and went to third on Mike Napoli's fly to right. The Rangers then brought the infield in with Conger at the plate. Conger hit a chopper to first baseman Mitch Moreland, who made the play but threw high and late to the plate. Matsui scored as the ball sailed over catcher Bengie Molina's head. That was it for the night. The Angels were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position themselves. The Rangers send C.J. Wilson on the mound Wednesday trying to salvage one game before they go to Oakland. "We have a bunch of confidence in C.J., but we need to score some runs," Washington said. "If we don't score any runs, it won't matter."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.