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Rangers’ bats prove ‘our ups are better than the downs’

The word “identity” has been uttered by Rangers manager Bruce Bochy multiple times through the first two weeks of the season, specifically in reference to the team’s fairly inconsistent offense. 

The Rangers may not know exactly what their identity is just yet, but on Friday night against the Astros, they showed what it can be. 

Texas beat Houston, 6-2, in the first game of the 2023 Silver Boot Series at Minute Maid Park, thanks to a home run from Adolis García and a three-RBI night from Nathaniel Lowe. The Rangers showed they were able to manufacture runs in a plethora of different ways, including a sacrifice bunt from Josh H. Smith to move the runners in the fifth inning and speed at the bottom of the lineup with Travis Jankowski and Leody Taveras.

“I think it’s gonna be a balanced offense that will put up runs consistently,” Bochy said. “A lot of clubs go through their ups and downs, but our ups are better than the downs, I can tell you that. It’s a good offense, and they’ve done a lot of good things already.”

It was a good team win, but it once again showed the rollercoaster that the Rangers’ offense has been so far this season.

On Wednesday, in the first game without shortstop Corey Seager — who is due to miss at least four weeks with a hamstring strain — the offense only mustered four hits and one run in a loss to the Royals. But it’s worth noting that, even with Seager, they scored two or fewer runs four times despite the shortstop slashing .359/.469/.538 at the time of his injury. And finding an identity becomes even more difficult when the best offensive player can’t be part of it. 

“We were really good [against Kansas City], we just got shut down the last day,” Bochy said pregame. “I don’t think we’ve quite yet found our identity. We score a lot of runs, and then we’ve been shut down probably close to half the games, too. I’d like to spread it out and be a little bit more balanced.”

Bochy said it was fair to say the offense has been “streaky,” but he doesn’t necessarily think it’s an unbalanced squad, with or without Seager.

“It’s all about adjusting on the fly here,” Bochy said. “It’s just what we got to do and what I need to do [making the lineup] and moving things around a little bit. We all have to deal with injuries sometimes. That’s our case right now.”

Part of that adjustment is figuring out what exactly to do with Smith in the lineup, starting in place of the injured Seager. While Smith is hitting in Seager’s spot in the two-hole in the Rangers’ first two games without him, it likely won’t be like that every night. 

The two are notably different players. Smith is a speedy contact hitter who doesn’t often slug much. Seager, on the other hand, has a career .854 OPS across parts of nine big league seasons.

Even without Seager’s slugging abilities, Smith was able to make his impact in the win against the Astros with his “perfect” bunt — according to Bochy — in the fifth. The sacrifice moved the runners to second and third with the heart of the order coming to the plate. Lowe promptly knocked them both in with a two-run single.

“We’re gonna miss Corey, of course, but the organization’s done a good job of getting good players in a position where they’re going to have success,” Lowe said. “Josh was really key tonight. Getting the runners to second and third when I was able to get them in was huge. It’ll probably go overlooked over the course of the season, but that’s a good player, and he’s gonna put together quality performances, regardless of whether he gets a hit or not.”

When it comes to identity, Lowe doesn’t think too hard about it. All offenses have ebbs and flows, what matters is bringing consistency, one pitch at a time.

The Rangers’ offense will continue doing what it does.

“I hit the ball off my thumbs to score two runs and Adolis hit it over the fence,” Lowe said. “We’ve got an offense that’s capable of scoring in a lot of different ways. And we did that tonight. … We’ve already seen that we put up a couple of zeros, and then we scored too many runs to count. We just need to get some consistency and not press and win one pitch at a time.”

Source: MLB