ARLINGTON (AP) — Michael Young and Mark Teixeira emerged from early hitting slumps, and the Texas Rangers posted their first series sweep of the season.
It’s certainly no coincidence that they happened at the same time.
But will the hitting stars and three victories over Toronto prove to be a catalyst for the Rangers after a tough first month under new manager Ron Washington?
“That’s what we’re hoping for. … We really responded these three games. We just want to keep it going,” Young said. “It was definitely time to kick it in gear.”
The Rangers (13-18) had a day off Monday after the weekend sweep of the Blue Jays that ended with consecutive victories over front-line pitchers Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett.
“It’s important. We haven’t been playing well,” Teixeira said. “It’s good for our confidence. It’s early to say must-wins in May, but at the same time, we can’t dig ourselves in too big of a hole.”
Despite a slow start that included a five-game losing streak when they managed a total of only 10 runs, the Rangers are within 3 1/2 games of the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels.
Starting Tuesday, the Rangers are scheduled to play 16 straight days, the first three at the New York Yankees, who swept three games in Texas last week.
“Things didn’t go right. But then we came out against Toronto and things fell together,” Washington said. “We pitched, we hit, we caught the ball, we ran the bases. “You always like when you sweep. Of course, they needed it. But one thing about it, we earned it.”
The series against the Blue Jays began the day after a doubleheader loss to the Yankees that prompted a players-only meeting.
Brandon McCarthy, who hadn’t made it past the third inning in any of his four previous starts, allowed two hits and a run over six innings of a 7-1 win in the series opener. Vicente Padilla, re-signed to a three-year deal in the offseason, finally got his first victory Saturday when Texas had nine runs and 12 hits off Halladay. Five days earlier, Halladay beat the Rangers 6-1 with a five-hitter.
Kenny Lofton, Young and Teixeira all hit first-pitch solo homers in the Rangers’ 3-2 victory over Burnett on Sunday. Kameron Loe allowed one run over 6 2-3 innings in only his fourth start.
Young’s homer in the eighth inning was the difference and finished an 8-for-13 series for the three-time All-Star shortstop after he went 0-for-13 against the Yankees.
“We just need to see how long we can all maintain it, and how long we can all swing the bats together,” said second baseman Ian Kinsler, leading the team with nine homers and 24 RBIs.
While Young raised his average from .192 to .233, that is still a paltry number after hitting a combined .316 over his last four straight 200-hit seasons. But it’s much better than the .162 average he had in mid-April.
Teixeira, the switch-hitting slugger, was 6-for-12 with five RBIs in the Toronto series and pushed his average to .265 — after dipping as low as .192 last month. He had only seven RBIs the first 28 games.
“Sometimes it just takes a while to get going,” said Teixeira, who last season hit 24 of his 33 home runs after the All-Star break.
That’s been the case for most of the Rangers, who are hitting a combined .241 (25th in the majors) even though their 38 homers are tied for the most. Utilityman Matt Kata (.353 in 16 games) is the only player hitting better than Kinsler’s .276.
Sammy Sosa has seven homers in his 27 games to get within five of the 600th in his career. But he is hitting .240 and is 0-for-9 in two games — the only starter without a hit against Halladay — since being hit in the helmet by a 94 mph fastball against the Yankees.
“As far as I’m concerned, when we played the Yankees, we hit rock bottom,” Washington said. “You’ve got nothing else to do but go up. Hopefully, this is our way up.”
Even though the Yankees are next on the schedule, the Rangers aren’t going to New York with a sense of revenge on their minds.
“It’s important to continue, but it has nothing to do with what happened last week,” Young said. “We want to win games for the sake of winning games. We definitely want to carry this into New York, but what happened last time is the least of our concerns.”