ARLINGTON -- On paper, the two-time defending American League champion Rangers are a better team than the 2012 White Sox, who are playing through a modified rebuilding process.
Texas also looked to be a better team on the field this past weekend at Rangers Ballpark, completing a series win with Sunday night's 5-0 whitewash of Gavin Floyd and his teammates. But that gap was not as great as some might have imagined.
Sure, it was just one three-game set over the course of a 162-game schedule. But with a little bit of hitting in the clutch, as the White Sox finished 2-for-19 with runners in scoring position, Robin Ventura could have emerged with two wins in his first three games as manager.
The White Sox effort certainly seemed to impress their highly-touted opponent.
"They have some good arms in the bullpen and top to bottom, their starters are good," said Texas second baseman Michael Young. "Nowadays, if you take two out of three in the American League, you're doing good because it seems like every team is tough."
"Pitching and defense keeps you in games and they've got pitching. They've got some serious arms in their bullpen," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "They've got pitching and defense and they don't make mistakes."
Floyd looked to make a couple of mistakes over his 5 2/3 innings of work against the Rangers. Texas launched three homers off the White Sox starter, coming from David Murphy leading off the second, Adrian Beltre with one on in the fourth and Josh Hamilton leading off the sixth.
Murphy's shot was the runt of the bunch at 396 feet. Beltre's opposite-field shot carried 410 feet, while Hamilton won the distance contest with his 441-foot prodigious clout into the upper home run porch in right field.
For the night, Floyd allowed four earned runs on just five hits while striking out three and walking two over his 85 pitches.
"I felt like things were going all right, even after giving up the solo home run to Murphy," Floyd said. "With Beltre, that was a nice piece of hitting, not a terrible pitch. He caught the good part of the bat and put it into right-center. He's a strong guy. You just kind of move on from it and try to learn from it."
"Every once in a while they are going to run into one. They are lethal that way," said Ventura of the Rangers' offense, held to three runs in each of the first two games. "Gavin pitched fine. It's just a very good lineup. They can do that any time."
Matt Harrison held the White Sox scoreless over six innings, limiting the South Siders to four hits. They had their chances, putting two runners on base in each of the fourth and sixth innings, but were unable to score.
In the fourth, Gordon Beckham doubled to start the frame and moved to third on Adam Dunn's grounder to first. But on Paul Konerko's grounder back to the mound snared by Harrison, Beckham was caught off third and nailed in a rundown. Alex Rios walked, but A.J. Pierzynski grounded out to Young at second to end the rally.
Pierzynski struck out against Harrison with runners on first and second and two outs in the sixth. The White Sox catcher had a great 11-pitch at-bat in the second against Harrison, which resulted in Hamilton making a diving catch on Pierzynski's line drive in right-center, and credited the Rangers' southpaw for his changed repertoire in this dominant effort.
"We talked about it on the bench. He had more pitches than normal," said Pierzynski of Harrison, who fanned three and held White Sox left-handers hitless in nine at-bats. "In the past he had been mostly fastball, slider, especially to lefties.
"He threw some changeups to lefties. He pitched. For everything we had seen, somewhere he learned that. He deserves a ton of credit because he made a lot of good pitches when he had to."
Two White Sox highlights of the setback were Eduardo Escobar's first career triple coming with two outs in the fifth, and Nate Jones' Major League debut in the seventh. Jones walked the first two hitters he faced before inducing an Elvis Andrus double-play grounder and striking out Hamilton on a changeup to end the frame.
"[White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper] and A.J. did a great job after the second hitter slowing me down and calming me down, and we went right after them," Jones said. "Luckily, I struck out Hamilton for the last out. It's a nice memory to have for sure."
Next up for the White Sox is a three-game set at Progressive Field against the Indians (1-2), another team figuring to be chasing the Tigers in the AL Central. If this first weekend serves as any indication, the White Sox certainly aren't a powerhouse, but they also aren't anybody's pushover.
"Yeah, they are ready to play," Ventura said. "It's not like they are not working. It's competition and sometimes it's your night, sometimes not."
"Tonight we needed to score some runs, but the first two games were evenly played and we could have won both of them," Pierzynski said. "I liked the energy. I liked the enthusiasm. I thought it was a good series. I'm glad it's over with and now we can get on with the season."