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Rangers hope Pudge can spark offense

Rangers hope Pudge can spark offense

ST. PETERSBURG -- As Ron Washington looks up and down his lineup card searching for ways to jump-start Texas' sluggish offense, he's hoping the team's newest addition may provide that lift.

At the least, Washington knows that Ivan Rodriguez, who made second start at catcher on Sunday since he was acquired on Aug. 18, will provide some life with his throwing arm. Rodriguez gave a little more than that, though.

In his first at-bat Sunday, the veteran walked and scored on a two-run single by Michael Young. In his second at-bat, Rodriguez ripped an RBI double down the left-field line. And later he added a sacrifice fly in the ninth to ensure the Rangers' 4-0 win over the Rays.

Rodriguez, in his second go-around with Texas in his likely Hall of Fame career, is 4-for-6 in two games now. And his offensive production on Sunday was crucial as an ignition for Texas, which had frantically been searching for others besides Young and Marlon Byrd to produce.

Washington said part of the reason could certainly be the Rays' outstanding pitching performances by starters Scott Kazmir and Matt Garza. But up and down the lineup, Washington hasn't been able to get consistent offensive performances from anybody other than Young and Byrd.

"We certainly need other guys to step up and pull their weight," Washington said. "I'm not surprised by what Michael's doing and I'm not surprised by what Marlon's doing; they've been doing it all season. But we need more than two guys to be successful."

Byrd and Young had combined for eight of the team's 13 hits and four of its seven runs before Sunday. Young hit the game-tying home run in the sixth inning on Saturday, and Byrd followed with the game-tying solo home run in the ninth. The Rangers went on to lose, 5-4, in 10 innings.

The rest of the order was conspicuously quiet. Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton finished the series 3-for-24 with two runs combined.

"Maybe it was Kazmir and maybe it was Garza," Washington said. "That's easy to say it was Kazmir and Garza -- they're pretty good pitchers. But we still need production from the rest of the lineup."

With Rodriguez in the lineup on Sunday -- a career .331 hitter at Tropicana Field -- Washington hoped the offense may get a welcomed spark. Though the novelty of returning to the Rangers may have worn off, Rodriguez could still provide enough punch to get the other Texas bats going.

"I do know that he's a professional batter," Washington said. "Whatever he's able to do, he's going to do."

Zach Schonbrun is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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