SAN FRANCISCO — Ron Washington has raved about how his Texas Rangers never let a loss carry into the next day. Fresh slate, new chance. That approach worked so well for the reigning AL champions last season.
More than a month into 2011, both the World Series champion San Francisco Giants and the runner-up Rangers have faced their share of challenges while hovering near the .500 mark.
The Giants hope they’ve steadied themselves after a weekend sweep over first-place Colorado. The banged-up Rangers lost two of three at home to the New York Yankees.
Neither manager expected his team to have it easy after remarkable runs last fall. Washington guided Texas to the franchise’s first World Series, Bruce Bochy and the Giants captured San Francisco’s first championship since they moved West from New York in 1958.
“The Texas Rangers don’t make excuses,” Washington said. “We get our butt whipped but we whip butt, too.”
Both teams have dealt with injuries to key faces, most notably AL MVP Josh Hamilton and slugger Nelson Cruz of Texas and NL championship series MVP Cody Ross and majors’ saves leader Brian Wilson of the Giants.
While Ross and Wilson returned, the Giants are still without center fielder Andres Torres but are expected to get him back when they open a three-game series against Arizona on Tuesday.
San Francisco also had a heavy road schedule to start the season — including a stretch of 16 of 19 away from home — and a cluster of championship ceremonies and other season-opening festivities throughout April that Bochy admits took an emotional toll.
Bochy never pretended it would be easy with the target on San Francisco’s back every day.
“It’s early but it’s good to get a sweep,” Bochy said Sunday. “There’s so much baseball left. This is going to be a battle but we certainly helped our cause by coming in here and winning some games.”
Hamilton broke his right shoulder April 12 at Detroit when he tagged up and tried to score from third on a foul popup. Hamilton slid headfirst into the plate, and is expected to miss two months after the mad dash home.
The All-Star outfielder was in good spirits a couple of weeks after getting hurt, wearing a T-shirt that showed the words “Don’t Get Bitter, Get Better” around a lemon.
“That says it all,” Hamilton said, he said, pointing at his shirt. “Don’t feel sorry for yourself. … It is what it is. Just do what you can to get better, as fast as you can. That’s it, (there’s) a lot of season left.”
Texas won only two of its first eight games following Hamilton’s injury.
“What I’ve noticed is they’re not talking about who’s not here. It’s about who is here,” Washington said. “When you start talking about what’s not here, that falls into the excuse category.
Texas’ 16 April wins still tied the 1996 team for the third-most in club history — behind 1998 (18) and 1989 (17).
Aside from Hamilton, the Rangers also were without closer Neftali Feliz because of right shoulder inflammation. Cruz went on the disabled list Saturday.
“We’re a confident team,” third baseman Michael Young said. “We’ve done a really good job battling through some injuries and making sure we’re playing the game the way we want to play it. So in that sense I’m really happy with what we’ve done. Effort level is something I always judge our team on, and with this club it’s always off the charts.”
The Giants brought back almost their entire odd band to try to make another run. But Wilson and Ross began the season on the DL, Torres went down early with a strained left Achilles’ tendon and the starting staff and bullpen that was so tough last fall has been inconsistent.
The Giants’ top offensive producer last season, Aubrey Huff, has been slow to get going. His home run leading off the 10th last Tuesday night at New York snapped an 0-for-20 stretch that was part of a bigger 3-for-37 rut in which he drove in only one run.
“You get in some of these slumps like this and you just try and stay positive as much as you can, especially in games like that,” Huff said. “Hopefully that gets me going.”
Huff hit .290 with a team-leading 26 home runs and 86 RBIs while playing in 157 games, then batted .268 with one homer and eight RBIs in the postseason as the Giants won their first title since 1954. He was rewarded with a $22 million, two-year contract only a couple of weeks after the World Series ended in five games at Texas.
The Rangers began the year at 9-1 with a six-game winning streak out of the gates that included a season-opening three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox.
Young and newcomer Adrian Beltre are already past the 20-RBI mark, though many of their teammates are still finding their timing at the plate. The sample size — or number of at-bats — is still relatively small at this stage, though.
“Those things even out as the season goes on,” Young said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys we know are going to have big years for us and they’re still waiting to get hot. When they do, and the offense starts running on all cylinders, we’re going to be in great shape.”
Washington isn’t overly concerned, though he would like to see some more consistency in all facets.
“They’re focused,” the skipper said. “That’s the way they play. I’m a lucky manager. I hope they keep doing that and keep me around.”