The club was shut out on Friday for the first time of the season and followed it up by only nicking Twins starter Livan Hernandez for a two-run Chris Davis home run in the second inning on Saturday. In 2005, coming out of the break in Oakland, Rich Harden (two-hit shutout with no walks) and Barry Zito (eight innings, one run on two walks and two hits) consecutively dominated the Rangers in 6-0 and 7-2 Oakland victories.
The Rangers entered this weekend's series against the Twins possessing the most dangerous lineup in the Major Leagues. Texas leads the league with 540 runs scored and sent four hitters to the All-Star Game. But just two games into the second half, the bats have turned cold. And even more alarming, the pitching has been lit up in consecutive nights.
Texas was buried under an avalanche of runs on Saturday. The Rangers allowed the American League's least powerful lineup entering the contest, with just 65 home runs in 2008, to go deep four times. Texas has been outscored 20-2 in the series' first two games.
Texas' players and coaches framed the disappointment in the sample size.
"It's just two games, guys," Ian Kinsler said. "There's no panic, here. ... It's not like this is the end of the season -- it's two games."
The Rangers had scored an average of 6.2 runs a game in the 49 contests since May 21 to close the first half, going 28-21 to turn their season around.
"These past two games, we've only scored only two runs, but that rarely ever happens to this team," starter Matt Harrison said. "I'm sure we can get right back into it and start scoring seven, eight runs a game."
Harrison struggled mightily in his third career start. The unraveling, as is often the case in baseball, could be directly traced to one pitch.
With the Twins leading 3-2 in the fifth and the bases loaded with two outs, Harrison placed Twins slugger Justin Morneau in a 1-2 hole. The lefty attempted to induce Morneau into chasing a curveball in the dirt. But the ball didn't get there, hanging over the plate. And Morneau did what he often does to mistakes, driving it into left-center gap for a three-run double.
"We got two strikes on him and just couldn't put him away," manager Ron Washington said. "Last night we did the same thing, couldn't put him away. He just won't go away."
Harrison was yanked two batters into the next inning. He allowed eight earned runs on nine hits and three walks in five-plus innings.
"I didn't get that curveball in the dirt, like I should have," Harrison said. "It was a game-changer, definitely."
The Morneau at-bat came one batter after Harrison walked Joe Mauer with runners on second and third.
"Both guys can definitely hit," Harrison said. "I figured if I missed with [Mauer], I still had an opportunity because I had the base open. But things didn't work out the way I planned."
Hernandez effectively navigated through Texas' land-mine lineup in recording his 10th victory of the season. The veteran went seven innings, giving up two earned runs on five hits and one walk. The Rangers failed to capitalize on a pitcher they had pummeled in two previous games this year. Hernandez entered the contest 0-1 with a 13.50 ERA (eight innings, 12 earned runs) against Texas in 2008.
"He's a veteran pitcher, and he stayed off the fat part of our bat," Washington said. "Last time we faced him, he was throwing it in the strike zone and we knocked the ball around. This time he threw it in the strike zone and we made outs."
Texas will try to avoid the sweep on Sunday when it activates starter Vincente Padilla. The veteran will be opposed by the Twins' Scott Baker.
"Urgency? It's the second game of the second half. There's no urgency," Washington said. "We lost two games in a row. we'll bounce back."