OAKLAND -- Time is running out as Rangers outfielder Hunter Pence continues to do everything he can to get back in the lineup.
Pence has been sidelined since Aug. 22 with a lower back strain and is still not taking batting practice or doing any serious swinging with the bat. Rangers manager Chris Woodward did not sound optimistic when asked before Saturday’s game against the A's about the possibility of Pence playing again this season.
“I don’t know if he is going to be able to swing by the end of the year,” Woodward said. “I don’t know. It’s a pretty significant thing, especially at his age, it’s not going to heal as fast. It stinks. He is going to do everything he can to get back in the game. I don’t know if it’s going to happen.”
After Saturday, the Rangers have seven games left in the regular season, but Pence is not going to shut it down as long as there is a chance to get back in the lineup.
“The value is to play the game you love and be a part of the team you committed to and finish strong,” Pence said. “There is infinite value.”
The Rangers are also acutely aware of how much Pence meant to this offense as the right-handed bat in the middle of a left-handed-heavy lineup. This is the second time Pence has been on the injured list.
The other time came after Pence sustained a strained right groin muscle on June 16 while going after a ball in the outfield in a game against the Reds in Cincinnati. That could have been the turning point in the Rangers' season.
The Rangers went into that game -- their 71st of the season -- with a 38-32 record. Their offense was hitting .256 with a .334 on-base percentage and a .444 slugging percentage while averaging 5.67 runs per game. Since then, they are hitting .238 with a .301 on-base percentage and a .411 slugging percentage while averaging 4.3 runs per game, entering Saturday.
“That’s where it dropped off a little bit,” Woodward said. “Hunter’s right-handed bat in the middle of the lineup was pretty significant. It took a lot of the pressure off other guys to produce and fill the void.”
Two key players in front of Pence also had their numbers drop off after June 15. Elvis Andrus had a slash line of .303/.341/.450 through June 15 and .245/.248/.327 since then. Shin-Soo Choo batted .280/.383/.500 through June 15 and .252/.352/.405 since then.
• The Rangers' 8-0 loss to the A's on Friday marked the fourth time in club history they had the minimum 27 plate appearances in a game. Erik Bedard threw a two-hit shutout against them for the Orioles on July 7, 2007, with both baserunners erased by double plays. The others were the Angels' Mike Witt’s perfect game on Sept. 30, 1984, and White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle’s no-hitter on April 18, 2007. Buehrle only allowed a walk to Sammy Sosa and picked him off base.
• Isiah Kiner-Falefa started at catcher on Saturday night, the first time he has been behind the plate since June 6. Jeff Mathis remains sidelined with a strained lower back, and the chances of him playing again this season are doubtful.