DMN-RANGERS

Texas Rangers first baseman Nate Lowe (30) waits on the throw on a pickoff attempt of Tampa Bay Rays right fielder Brett Phillips (35) in the third inning on Sunday in Arlington.

ARLINGTON – Well, Chris Woodward has had just about enough.

On more than one occasion after Sunday’s 7-1 loss to Tampa Bay, he basically said that his young offense needed to toughen up. No, forget the basically. That’s exactly what he said. It is, by far, the harshest criticism the Rangers manager has leveled at his team in his three seasons.

“I know they are working, and I always back these guys; it probably nauseates people because I stress how hard they are working even when they aren’t having a ton of results,” Woodward said. “Your swing is your swing. And you are working on things. But that’s outside of the game. When you step between the lines, you are a ballplayer. You have to be tougher. You have to grind and fight.

“We can’t go down as easy at times,” he added. “When I see a lack of toughness — I think that’s the right word; I don’t know — but we’ve got get a little better in those spots. A lot better. That’s the only way we are going to win games. We had a 1-0 lead going to the eighth, but it could have been 4-0 or 5-0 with some better at-bats.”

Who can blame him for going off? The Rangers have lost 11 of 12 and 20 of their last 25 since getting to .500. He and his staff have cajoled and encouraged the hitters. A post-game meeting in Colorado was about trying to only strengthen resolve in the process. At some point, though, the process must yield some results. The Rangers’ offense only seems to be slipping into a deeper abyss.

They have scored three or fewer runs eight times in their last 10 games. They had one hit with a runner in scoring position in 11 at-bats Sunday; it came on their second at-bat of the game. And it didn’t score a run. Their only run Sunday came on a first-inning double play grounder. It did break the Rangers’ streak of 19 consecutive games without a first-inning run, but that constituted the offensive highlights.

Over the last 10 games, the Rangers are 8 for 54 (.148) with runners in scoring position. Their Nos. 3-4-5 hitters all made rally-sapping outs with RISP Sunday.

Nate Lowe bounced into the first-inning double play on a 2-0 cutter below the strike zone. With two on and two outs in the third, struggling Nick Solak took a fastball down the middle for strike one, fouled off a second one in the same location and then grounded weakly to second base. In the fourth, after consecutive singles, Nos. 8-9 hitters Jason Martin and Jonah Heim struck out on a total of seven pitches. And in the fifth Joey Gallo lined softly into an inning-ending double play.

Woodward did not detail particular at-bats with which he was frustrated. Then again, if he had, it might have taken a while.

“We can’t just give away at-bats, give-in because we are looking for a fastball with two strikes,” Woodward said. “We’ve got to get a little bit more fight in us. We got to get a little tougher.”

All of this sprung up because Woodward was asked about the unlikelihood of the game turning on two late errors by shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa, the AL’s leader in the defensive runs saved metric. Kiner-Falefa threw wide of first to start the eighth. The Rays eventually scored the tying run on a bases-loaded walk, then added two more on a bases-loaded double.

In the ninth, Kiner Falefa had a two-out liner go off his glove. The ball left the bat at 105 mph and had an expected batting average of .860, according to MLB’s StatCast system, but Kiner-Falefa’s defensive reputation may have worked against him. The Rays followed with a two-run single and a two-run homer.

“I pulled him aside before his last at-bat,” Woodward said. “I told him he didn’t lose this game. He’s been the best shortstop in baseball. He’s been our heart and soul. He competes harder than anybody. We lost the game well before that. Was it frustrating? Yes. Should we have made a play? Yes. He will take ownership of that; he has taken ownership of that. But he should not go home thinking he lost this game. I hate that that’s going to be the narrative.”

It won’t be now.

The manager changed the narrative by charging his offense to get tougher.

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