OAKLAND -- Hitting coach Clint Hurdle compared his situation to the carnival plate spinner on the old Ed Sullivan Show, trying to keep as many plates spinning as possible. "You try to keep all the plates spinning, but there are always three wobbling," Hurdle said on Friday afternoon. "We've got more than three wobbling right now, but we're trying hard to keep them all spinning." In this case, spinning means hitting. The Rangers aren't hitting on this road trip, during which they have lost five of seven. They still have a commanding seven-game lead in the American League West, with 10 to play but they are not exactly sprinting to the finish line. Right now, the offense is collectively gripped in a tough slump, and it's getting worse instead of better.
"I'm trying to keep things simple for them," Hurdle said. "Focus on the task at hand. Don't look back at yesterday or look forward to tomorrow. Keep it simple. It's a new experience for a lot of these guys, and they've got to figure it out on their own. "This is a wonderful part of the game. You get to see people grow up in front of you. You see the challenges of the game and how people react to them. There are a lot of things you just have to work through and play through." The Rangers are hitting .112 in their past three games while scoring just two unearned runs over the course of 30 innings. They are also hitting .202 with 14 runs scored in seven games on the trip while batting .152 (8-for-52) with runners in scoring position. "The bottom line is, we haven't been getting it done," manager Ron Washington said. "You can't put any more on it than that. We're not getting it done. You can talk all you want, but the game is played between the lines and we haven't been getting it done." The Rangers search for ways to kick-start their hitters. They hold advance scouting meetings before every series. They met with the hitters in Anaheim. They hold early batting practice five hours before games, and even some of the regulars are showing up. Ian Kinsler was among those who were out there on Friday afternoon. "This was probably the fifth or sixth time this season," Kinsler said. "Early BP is fun -- getting out there, trash talking, having fun. It gets the day started on the right foot." The Rangers could use that on Friday night against the Athletics, with Tommy Hunter pitching against Oakland rookie left-hander Bobby Cramer. "We're a very confident offense," Kinsler said. "We could easily score 10 runs. It's just a matter of time. Just keep swinging the bat. You can't get passive. Stuff happens. You have to grind through it. It's time to mentally grind through it." The lineup on Friday was almost the same as the one that managed just one infield hit off of Athletics starter Dallas Braden in Thursday's 5-0 loss. The only changes were Bengie Molina starting at catcher instead of Taylor Teagarden, and Julio Borbon in the outfield instead of David Murphy. But with a left-hander on the mound, Washington stayed with Jeff Francoeur in right field and Jorge Cantu at first base. The Athletics will throw another left-hander on Saturday with Gio Gonzalez pitching. Washington's original intention was to let Cantu, a right-handed hitter, play three straight games against left-handers. Washington is now reconsidering that. Cantu, who is hitting .171 and has yet to drive in a run in 71 at-bats with the Rangers, got the start on Friday, but Washington is no longer sure about Saturday. "We'll just wait and see," Washington said. "If Cantu goes off [on Friday], he'll probably play tomorrow. But there is only so much I can do with the lineup. They've got to get it done. The guys I'm putting out there, they're the ones that have got to get it done." In other words, the Rangers have no more trades, callups or dramatic quick-fixes up their sleeves. They could use Josh Hamilton, who is sidelined with a ribcage injury, but he won't be back until next weekend at the earliest. Hamilton hasn't take batting practice yet, though the injury is still showing definite improvement. Washington takes his chances with what he has. "Every guy on the roster, they're the ones that got us here," Washington said. "They've got to take us to the finish line. It will happen. It may not be happening as quickly as people want, but it will happen. We've coached them as much as we can. Meetings aren't going to do it. They've got to get it done between the lines. "I believe they will. It's just taking a minute."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.