Entering the 2013 season, we knew the Texas Rangers' offense would take on a new look. Gone were Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli, along with near-70 home runs they provided last season.
Mitch Moreland was being relied upon to produce at first base, Ian Kinsler's power numbers took a nosedive and the one big unexpected — Nelson Cruz was suspended for the regular season's final 50 games.
For a while after Cruz's suspension, it seemed the Rangers' offense would be OK, but it ended up being smoke and mirrors as they were playing bad teams in August. Once the calendar hit September and the Rangers were thrown up against contenders, we saw the true colors of a lineup that is solid in the 1-4 spots but then basically has five 7-8 hitters. Oh, and there's David Murphy, who was supposed to be an everyday outfielder this year but is now taking a back seat to guys like Jim Adduci and Joey Butler.
In other words, things are going pretty poorly from an offensive standpoint.
But in Thursday's big win over Tampa Bay to secure a series split and ensure the Rangers leaving town with a share of the AL Wild Card lead, several cold bats came to life in a big way.
First off, Alex Rios had a nice game after scuffling through the first three games of the series as he had been one of the few Rangers hitting recently. Entering Thursday's finale, Rios was 2-for-14 without an RBI in the No. 3 spot in the lineup. On Thursday, Rios was 2-for-5 with a homer, two RBIs and a stolen base.
The more unexpected bats to come to life belonged to Craig Gentry and Moreland.
As the only lefty in the lineup against left-handed starter Matt Moore, who entered the game with pure dominance in an albeit limited sample size against the Rangers, Moreland lit up the young lefty.
Hitting out of the 9-hole, Moreland went 3-for-5 with a deep game-tying homer in the third inning before Elvis Andrus and Rios followed his blast with long balls of their own in the same inning. Over the course of the four-game set, Moreland went 6-for-15 with three doubles, a homer and four RBIs.
If some of these bats, particularly Moreland's, can stay hot down the stretch and into the postseason, when the Rangers could get Cruz back, the lineup could look completely different.
It'd be nice to have a chance to find out.