Seager homers in 4th straight before offense stalls

May 25th, 2024

MINNEAPOLIS -- Rangers manager Bruce Bochy gave his batting order a bit of a makeover on Friday night for the opener of a three-game set against the Twins at Target Field. The three mainstays in Marcus Semien (leadoff), (two-hole) and Adolis García (cleanup) stayed the same, but everyone else was shuffled up or down as Bochy looked for something to spark a stagnant offense.

“I put all the names in a hat and pulled them out,” Bochy joked pregame. “But no, seriously, we kind of wanted to ride with the hot bats, I guess is the best way I can put it. [Leody Taveras] has been swinging the bat pretty good, I put him in the five-hole [up from the ninth spot]. … I’m just tweaking it to see if we can figure out a way to get some runs on the board.”

Funnily enough, the only runs Texas put on the board resulted from one thing that Bochy didn’t change: a Semien leadoff walk and a Seager two-run home to begin the game. Unfortunately, that would be it for the Rangers’ offense in a 3-2 loss to the Twins.

Texas has now dropped each of the past six contests in which it had scored first, including all five games of the current skid. Since a 12-run outburst in Oakland on May 8, the Rangers have scored four or fewer runs in 13 straight games. They’ve gone 2-11 in those contests.

“I mean, we came out swinging. Corey, great job putting us up two runs there,” Bochy said. “That guy [Twins starter Bailey Ober] was probably a hit away from being out of the game. We ran his pitch count up, we did a lot of good things. But you're not going to win the game unless you get hits with men on base. You can't just rely on the long ball, and we didn't get it tonight.

“We had him on the ropes a couple of times and that [big hit] was missing. It's been this way since we started this struggle here that we're in right now. We’re just in the one-, two-, three-run area.”

After a slow start to the season in which Seager hit just .208 in April, he entered Friday slashing .360/.515/.840 over his previous seven games. He then went 1-for-3 with the home run and a walk as he extended his home run streak to four straight games.

But while Seager may be back to his normal self, the Rangers’ offense as a whole has a long way to go.

Friday’s loss was a perfect illustration of the team’s offensive struggles. Utility man Josh Smith led off the fifth inning with a single, but after that, 15 of the Rangers’ final 16 batters were retired, with a two-out walk from Travis Jankowski in the ninth inning standing as the only baserunner over that time.

Of the nine baserunners Texas had in the loss, seven came in the first two innings. Jankowski, who stole second base in the ninth, was the only one of two baserunners between the third and ninth innings to move into scoring position.

“We've got a couple of guys, I think it’s fair to say, they're struggling right now,” Bochy said. “You can just tell when you depend on one part of the order. We've changed it around, moved guys around trying to get things going. It's just not happening until you get contributions from everybody throughout the order. It makes it difficult.”

Bochy said he believes a throughline of the struggles throughout the lineup is the timing. No matter the pitch velocity, multiple guys are having trouble consistently timing up pitches and driving the ball to all fields.

“It seems like a few guys are just behind and that can come from trying to be too selective or not looking for your pitch and just letting it go,” he said. “When you go to hit a baseball, you have to do it with intent. And I think that's missing on a few guys. That's what we're trying to change.”

Sure, the Rangers are still pretty injured, especially with a pair of middle-of-the-order bats in Josh Jung (wrist fracture) and Wyatt Langford (hamstring strain) still on the shelf. But Texas’ issues against Minnesota, and in the entire month of May, have gone far beyond the rash of injuries.

“That game was in front of us,” Bochy said. “It has nothing to do with injuries. We got our guys up there that we want up there and we just have to have somebody come through. … It takes somebody to come through for you. I wish I had a better answer, but that's how you play the game.

“We're so used to these guys coming through and getting these hits. It's not happening right now. That's what's very frustrating.”