ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays pitched left-hander Matt Moore against the Rangers on Thursday night, and the Rangers' lineup reflected their limitations against left-handed pitching -- exactly why they need Nelson Cruz back if they make the playoffs.
The lineup began with Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Alex Rios and Adrian Beltre. Then came Jeff Baker at designated hitter batting fifth. Baker entered the game hitting .316 with 10 home runs in 98 at-bats against left-handers, but is limited to designated-hitter duty with a groin injury.
Geovany Soto hit sixth. He entered the game hitting .233 with a .427 slugging percentage on the season, but .182 with a .309 slugging percentage against left-handers. Craig Gentry, a .250 hitter against left-handers, batted seventh. Gentry, whose best assets are his defense and tremendous speed, also entered the game with 15 extra-base hits, 10 of them against lefties.
Joey Butler, who entered the night with only eight at-bats since being called up, batted eighth. Mitch Moreland, who batted .136 in his last 17 games, hit ninth. Moreland entered the game 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his career against Moore.
"I just felt Mitch has a chance to run into something," manager Ron Washington said.
Baker's injury kept him from starting at first base for Moreland. But even if Baker was at first, Washington did not have another right-handed alternative for designated hitter other than utility infielder Adam Rosales. Jurickson Profar and Lance Berkman are switch-hitters, but aren't being used against right-handers.
Washington said his other alternative for designated hitter was A.J. Pierzynski, who is a left-handed hitter. Pierzynski is hitting .282 against lefties. But Moore held left-handed hitters to a .218 average before Thursday's finale.
Cruz is working out in the Rangers instructional league program while serving his 50-game suspension for violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment policy. He was 0-for-3 with a walk in an instructional league game on Wednesday.
The Rangers will see a run of four straight right-handed pitchers starting Friday, but four of their final six games could be against left-handed starters.
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.