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MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Rangers have to grind their way through 162 games

Washington says he won't make excuses for up-and-down start to season

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MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

DENVER -- OK, you're a Texas Rangers fan. Things haven't gone well of late.

Take a deep breath. Count to 162.

See how long that took?

Now, remember, it's a 162-game season. There are down times and there are up times.

Right now, it's a down time for the Rangers, but even in the dark clouds cast by a 12-1 loss to the Rockies on Tuesday night that left Texas with its eighth loss in 11 games, it's not all bleak.

"Not making no excuses," said manager Ron Washington.

He doesn't need to.

For all that's happened, the Rangers are still two games back of the A's in the American League West, although they did slip into third place, percentage points back of the Mariners. And they have seen promising signs as obscured as they may have been by being swept in the two-game visit to Coors Field, where Colorado outscored them by a combined 20-3.

"We have to get home and get on track," said Washington.

Texas does play 10 of its next 13 at Globe Life Ballpark, beginning Wednesday night, but the Rangers will be looking at the familiar faces of the Rockies -- their MLB-imposed natural rival for this year -- the first two games of that stretch.

Texas is 9-7 at home this year, but the ballpark has been a safe haven for the Rangers since they started to make themselves a postseason factor with their first division title back in 1996. They have had a losing record at home in only three of the 18 seasons during that stretch, and they have won at least 48 games in each of the six playoff seasons, including 52 in 2011 and 51 in '10 on their way to World Series appearances.

The immediate concern is a rotation in which the starting pitcher has failed to get through six innings in seven of eight games, six of which Texas has lost. The rotation has worked a total of 38 innings in those eight games, which has left 27 innings of work for the bullpen.

Things were of such a concern that Washington brought in designated hitter Mitch Moreland to work the final inning against Colorado.

There, however, is hope on the horizon. Joe Saunders (stress fracture, left ankle) made his first start on a rehab assignment at Double-A Frisco on Tuesday. He allowed three runs in four innings, two on solo home runs in the fourth.

Colby Lewis makes his fifth start after being sidelined for a year and a half when the Rangers head home to Arlington on Wednesday, and Matt Harrison will be making his third start after being sidelined for a year because of back surgery.

Opening Day starter Tanner Scheppers (right elbow inflammation) played long toss at 105 feet on Tuesday, and he could be on a mound for work this weekend.

More than that, however, there is hope for an offense that has been outscored by 25 runs and has been limited production from the second, third and fourth spots in the lineup, which Elvis Andrus, Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre usually call home.

The three of them have a combined 26 RBIs and four home runs, and five players have driven in more than 26 runs.

Fielder and Beltre, the third and fourth hitters, have shown signs of offensive life. Beltre, who did spend two weeks on the disabled list already, hit his first home run of the season to account for Texas' only run on Tuesday, and he is 6-for-13 his last three games. Fielder has two home runs and 11 RBIs for the season, but he is 9-for-24 in a seven-game hitting streak.

And they do have track records.

Fielder has never hit fewer than 25 home runs in any of his eight full seasons, and he has driven in 102 or more runs in six of the last eight. Beltre had hit at least 32 home runs and driven in 102 or more runs each of the last four years.

"It's not just them, it's everybody doing what they care capable of doing," said Washington. "But for those guys to be effective, they have to really do some damage. We've got some things going, but we're not at full pace."

The resurgence, however, starts with those three hitters.

And they have started to show signs of hope.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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