Texas Rangers dealing with another offensive power outage: ‘It’s been tough sledding’

arlington — They’ve reached the let’s-give-it-a-shot stage of this latest offensive drought. The Texas Rangers, in the sixth inning of Tuesday’s loss to the Detroit Tigers, asked catcher Jonah Heim and his bottom-tenth-percentile speed to lay down a bunt vs. a favorable defensive alignment.

It worked, and it might’ve been the only thing that did.

That’s where these Rangers are.

Again.

“It looked like we were coming out of it,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “But last two games, it’s been tough sledding for us.”

The Rangers, after a 3-1 loss to the Tigers on Tuesday at Globe Life Field, have been held to two runs or less in 21 of their 61 games this season and were held to one or less runs for the 10th time Tuesday by the quintet of Detroit’s Jack Flaherty, Alex Faedo, Shelby Miller, Tyler Holton and Jason Foley.

The Rangers have struck out 19 times in the first two games of this series and have gone down looking 10 times. Their three hardest-hit balls on Tuesday were a Corey Seager lineout (105.8 mph), a Wyatt Langford groundball which kickstarted an inning-ending double play (104.5 mph) and an Adolis García flyout (101.7 mph). It took a sky-high Ezequiel Duran bloop single in the bottom of the ninth that the Tigers couldn’t field in shallow center to score Josh Smith (leadoff single) from the first base. Smith was the first Ranger to cross home plate since Marcus Semien’s leadoff home run in Monday’s 2-1 loss.

At least that loss included some firepower. The three hits before Smith’s in the ninth were Heim’s bunt single, a Nathaniel Lowe blooper into shallow center and a single from Semien that didn’t exit the infield.

Texas Rangers' Josh Smith runs back to second base, avoiding a ground ball from Robbie Grossman during the ninth inning of the team's baseball game against the Detroit Tigers, Tuesday, June 4, 2024, in Arlington, Texas.(Gareth Patterson / ASSOCIATED PRESS)

“We really didn’t threaten much, we were lucky to get one run, to be honest,” Bochy said. “The bats were just quiet. Hard to explain why, they were just quiet.”

It’s especially hard to explain considering Bochy and co. had hoped to have moved past the explaining phase. The Rangers scored six runs twice in a three-game span against the Minnesota Twins and Arizona Diamondbacks early last week. They plated 13 total runs in the final two games of their road series against the Miami Marlins this weekend. Bochy, after a 6-0 win over the Marlins on Sunday, said that the Rangers’ offense had “left us for a little bit.”

“If we knew what was working [last week] and could do it the last two nights,” Bochy said before veering off to talk about the quality of pitching the Rangers have faced to begin this series in Tarik Skubal and Jack Flaherty.

He didn’t need to finish the thought. The befuddling power outage has left more than a few grasping for answers lately. The starting rotation — which, from a wins-and-losses standpoint, was a victim of low run support in May and garnered just four total wins that month — could be next in line with a query.

Right-hander Dane Dunning, in his third start since he returned from the injured list, allowed three earned runs on four hits and a walk in five innings pitched. The Tigers scored each of their runs via a home run: Zach McKinstry turned on an inside cutter for a two-run home run in the second inning for a two-run home run, and Riley Greene did the same to a slider with two outs in the fifth.

“Today, it was just a lot of sloppy pitches, a lot of sloppy misses,” Dunning said. “I didn’t get ahead as much as I wanted to, and when you get ahead 0-1, it’s a lot easier to get guys out.”

He needed 45 pitches to complete the game’s first two innings and was replaced with Jesus Tinoco in the sixth inning after 84 pitches. The 29-year-old has allowed a team-high 10 home runs in 50 and ⅔ innings pitched this season, and his career-high 1.78 home runs-per-nine ranks within the bottom 10 of all American League starting pitchers.

It’s a concerning trend. So, too, is the fact that he and Nathan Eovaldi combined to allow just four runs in 10 and 2/3 innings pitched vs. the Tigers and the Rangers have two losses to show for it.

“He gave up three runs, he gave us a chance to win,” Bochy said. “You ought to be allowed to give up three and still win a ballgame.”

You certainly ought to be.

But right now, for the suddenly-slumping-again Rangers, it ain’t.

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