A day short of six weeks after breaking his arm, Josh Hamilton is back. So is Nelson Cruz.
And with them, will the Rangers welcome the return of their offense?
After a weekend in Philly in which they were outscored only 5-4 over 27 innings of, let's face it, boring baseball, the Rangers -- after a weather-forced pit stop in Arkansas -- return to host the White Sox tonight in Arlington with their two biggest bats back in the lineup. Amazingly, they return to a team that is both above .500 (24-23) and in first place (by 0.5).
In their final rehab starts Sunday in AAA Round Rock, Cruz homered for the third consecutive game and Hamilton went 0 of 4 with two strikeouts.
The Rangers went 15-21 without Hamilton, injured on a head-first slide in Detroit April 12. Cruz has been gone since straining his right thigh May 3.
Without Hamilton, the Rangers' offensive production has slid almost two runs per game. They were harmless against the Phillies' trio of Roy Halladay-Cliff Lee-Roy Oswalt and lucky not to be swept.
On Friday the Rangers manufactured an early run against Halladay on a crafty double-steal but lost 3-2 despite C.J. Wilson allowing the Phils only four hits.
Saturday former teammate Lee was even more dominant, striking out 10 Rangers and surrendering only five singles in a shutout.
Yesterday Matt Harrison gave the Rangers another well-pitched game (his best as a Ranger) and Texas scratched out two runs -- thanks to a Mitch Moreland double and a Craig Gentry bunt -- in a 2-0 win over Oswalt. After two blown saves in Kansas City, Neftali Feliz closed this one with 10 pitches to get the final two outs.
In all, the Rangers hit .231 (22 of 95) in the series. They saw 388 pitches from Halladay-Lee-Oswalt, striking out 22 times and managing only five extra-base hits (all doubles).
But, to their credit, they still haven't been swept this season after it happened seven times last year.
The offense should be better. Starting tonight.
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