Offensive struggles hold down Rangers

Cruz's homer all the offense in defeat

ARLINGTON -- Outfielder Marlon Byrd offered one theory on the Rangers' struggling offense Saturday night.

"I hope this is not the case, but this might be how our offense is this year, and pitching will have to take us to the promised land," Byrd said. "Hopefully, our offense will come around, but if not, we'll have to win it with pitching and defense. That's what good teams do in September anyway."

The Rangers did not win on Friday night. Their offense remained in a slump and Scott Feldman could not match opposing starter Scott Baker, who pitched the Twins to a 4-1 victory over the Rangers at the Ballpark in Arlington.

Nelson Cruz gave the Rangers their only run with a homer off Baker in the fourth, as Texas mustered seven hits and two walks but never had more than one runner on base at a time. Instead the Rangers were 0-for-16 on the night with runners on base and 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

The Rangers have lost six of their last seven games and are hitting .192 in that stretch. They are hitting .233 since June 1, going 18-21 even with a respectable staff ERA of 4.21.

There has been much talk about the Rangers pursuing Roy Halladay in a trade or bringing up uber-pitching prospect Neftali Feliz, but it's their offense that's causing the most headaches right about now.

"It's not doing what we're capable of doing," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "The story of the game tonight is we just didn't score enough runs."

This is the 14th time this season Rangers pitchers have allowed four runs or fewer in a game and still lost. Texas lost just 13 such times over 162 games in 2008. But this is hardly the last year's version of the Rangers, which led the universe in runs scored.

"We haven't done as well hitting as we did last year," outfielder Josh Hamilton said. "This would be a good time to pick it up and hit the way we did last year. We'll just see what happens. We just have to keep working hard and hope it comes around soon."

The sooner the better, as the Rangers are now closer to third place than they are first. They are three games behind the Angels in the American League West and just one ahead of the Mariners.

"Maybe we're too relaxed," Byrd said. "We need to pick up the intensity. We can't get comfortable, we have to keep up the pressure. That's what Anaheim does. We get guys in scoring position early, we need to get some runs across and put the pressure on the other pitcher."

The Twins did it against Rangers starter Scott Feldman, scoring two on a leadoff single by Justin Morneau, a one-out double by Michael Cuddyer and a two-out single by Carlos Gomez.

Cruz hit his 23rd home run of the season in the fourth to make it 2-1, but the Twins struck back immediately. Cuddyer, leading off the fifth, fell behind in the count, 1-2. Feldman then threw a sharp curve that was down and away, but Cuddyer, lunging at the pitch, hit it into the left-field seats.

"I guess that was one of those where you have to tip your hat to the hitter," Feldman said. "The pitch was down, and I hadn't shown him that pitch. He hit the pitch I wanted to throw. I was kind of surprised he hit it that good."

The Rangers could have used that kind of break, but never got one. The closest they came was in the ninth, when Cruz, with one out, hit a roller down the first-base line.

Twins closer Joe Nathan got to the ball quickly and went to tag Cruz, who cut to his left like a running back avoiding a linebacker. Nathan missed the tag, his throw to first was late and first-base umpire Gary Cederstrom refused to listen to the Twins plea that Cruz went out of the baseline.

Instead, Cederstrom ended up throwing Twins manager Ron Gardenhire out of the game.

"[Cederstrom] just said when [Nathan] caught the ball, he couldn't run into the pitcher fielding the ball, so he had to create his own basepath," Gardenhire said. "So boom, I'm done. ... That was great baserunning, because if you get away with that, you get away with murder."

Nathan wasn't that perturbed. He struck out the next two hitters, and the Rangers were finished for the night.

"We're not going any place," Washington said. "We're still in it. We'll come back tomorrow. We know we're better than that. We're not going to drop our heads or make excuses. The name of the game is scoring runs and we're not doing it."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.