Axl Rose once said “all you need is a little patience.”
Well, he actually said it several times in that Guns N’ Roses song. And while I’m sure Axl and Co. weren’t singing about the 2014 Texas Rangers, or even about baseball, this year’s team has hearkened the advice of just using a little “Patience.”
Patience at the plate. Patience with injuries. Patience with struggling clean-up hitters.
So much was said in the early-goings of this season about a struggling Rangers offense that couldn’t produce runs. It scored four or fewer runs in six consecutive games, and eight of nine.
"We played all those games in Spring Training and never put anything together. We played all the games in the beginning of the year and never put anything together. It's time to start getting consistent, and that's where we want to be," manager Ron Washington said.
Consistent they’ve been as they wrap up a 10-game homestand Sunday. Here they are, on a five-game winning streak, with the second best record in the American League, and the return of Matt Harrison and Adrian Beltre looming.
Shortstop Elvis Andrus said the offense knew good things would start to happen.
“We knew it was early. There were a couple guys still trying to find themselves, I was still trying to find myself,” Andrus said. “But I think if you do the little things and as long as you can stay focused the whole game, a lot of good things are going to happen.”
“As long as we play together it’s going to be tough to beat this team,” he continued. “That’s what we’re doing really well right now. Everyone is playing together, hoping for their teammates to do well.”
That kind of teamwork is perhaps even more important for a team like the Rangers, which has used a rotation of players at several positions. The pitching staff is gradually gaining pieces back, the likes of Josh Wilson and Donnie Murphy have split playing time evenly at second base, J.P. Arencibia and Robinson Chirinos have shared time behind the plate, and Kevin Kouzmanoff has had to fill in for the injured Beltre at third base.
It’s no secret that, even as those fill-ins have been effective (and at times phenomenal), the club is anxiously awaiting for the planned starters to get back in the lineup. Ten players currently populate the disabled list, and patience is necessary in waiting for those injuries to heal.
But in the interim, it’s all about everyone focusing on doing the job assigned to them at the moment.
“Nobody is trying to do too much. Everybody is fighting in every at-bat,” Andrus said. “We’re not taking anything for granted right now. We’re playing good defense, the pitching staff has been great. And with the offense, like I always say ‘sometime you’re going to come out [of the slump]’.”
Andrus, whose six years with the club are second-most on the team behind Colby Lewis’s seven, was right. They’ve come out of the slump with 34 runs over their five-game winning streak.
Sorry to throw in a dash of pessimism here, but the Rangers aren’t going to finish the season with a 154-8 record. They will lose more games, some consecutively, and they will likely suffer through struggles at the plate.
The last five games, however, have been an encouraging sign for a team with World Series aspirations. And the formula for success is rather simple, if you ask Andrus.
“I think if you do the little things during the year, there’s going to be a lot of good games you’re going to win,” he said.
The turnaround over the last week has been proof that, even if tough times do hit this team again, there is one thing the Rangers can fall back on.
Have just a little patience.
“That’s the mindset you’ve got to have, because the game of baseball is a process. We have to stay in the process and believe in what we’re doing, and good things will happen. Right now, good things are happening.”