BOSTON -- The Rangers already know a thing or two about kicks to the gut. Four times this season they've held leads going into the eighth inning only to see them erased by defensive miscues or big hits by the opponent.
Tuesday likely left them in more pain then they've been in all season.
And the guy inflicting it was a player who joined the club Tuesday on short notice after the Red Sox put two outfielders on the disabled list. Darnell McDonald, called up from the minors before the game, hit the tying two-run homer in the eighth in his first at-bat in a Boston uniform. He ended up winning the game with a two-out single off the wall in the ninth.
The loss left the cramped visiting clubhouse at Fenway Park nearly silent. Josh Hamilton quietly got dressed, disappointed over a mistake in left field. With the Rangers up four runs in the sixth, Hamilton scampered over to try to catch a fly ball and overran it.
"I just misplayed it," Hamilton said.
The ball floated back into play and Hamilton couldn't get to it, allowing two runs to score. Hamilton said the ball hit a fan and Washington tried to argue that point, but to no avail. Both runs were allowed to stand.
"If we catch that fly ball right there, it's a different ballgame," Washington said.
The "ifs" have been eating away at this team so far this season. They sit 5-8 and last in the AL West, in large part because of defensive breakdowns and an inconsistent offense. What made Tuesday particularly difficult to stomach was that the club did get eight hits and six runs and stole a club-record nine bases. Yet, they couldn't hang on at the end.
"I don't know, man," Hamilton said when asked about how the team has played the first two weeks. "We've just got to finish it off and get it done. We haven't done all the things we have to do as far as hitting, it's been better, but defense and stuff hasn't been there. We've got to get it all together."
Finishing games has become an issue. They led 1-0 in the ninth against Toronto in the first series of the season and lost, 3-1. The Rangers took a 3-1 lead into the ninth against Seattle a few days later and fell, 4-3. Behind a sterling performance from Matt Harrison, the Rangers led 2-0 in the eighth only to have a couple of errors and a three-run homer start what has now become a five-game losing streak. Then came Tuesday's game, when the club was unable to hold a 6-4 lead in the eighth.
"We have to figure out a way to shut the game down," Washington said.
The Hamilton mistake, which was initially called an error and then changed to a double, is just one example of some issues the club has had with the gloves this season. They had some breakdowns on Friday night in Yankee Stadium that turned a close game into one where the Yankees created some breathing room in the first game of what became a three-game sweep. And the two errors in the eighth in Cleveland that turned a possible win into a defeat.
It's left Washington, known for preaching defense, shaking his head.
"What can you address?," Washington said. "We've talked about how our strength is our pitching and defense. A ball was misplayed. I don't think anyone feels worse about it than Hamilton. We all want that play to be made. It was an easy out in that corner, he just didn't make it."
Reaction from other things:
* RHP Darren Oliver said his curveball was a good pitch, but McDonald got ahold of it and drove it to left-center for the homer. "We just got beat," said Oliver, who pitched one inning and gave up tow runs on three hits wiht a walk and two strikeouts. He was charged with a blown save. "Teams have these streaks, but usually it's later. We're having ours early."
* Washington said he first went out after the double that Hamilton misplayed to see what was going on between his pitcher and catcher. When he got back to the dugout, someone told him that a fan hit the ball in the corner. Washington tried to go back out and argue it and that's when Washington said second base umpire Phil Cuzzi said the manager couldn't come back out and argue. "So I told him, 'If you saw it happen, get it right. But he didn't see it happen." The missed call allowed two runs to score on the double as play continued, instead of only one run scoring.
* Nelson Cruz has a cramp in his right hamstring. He said he felt it just prior to his at-bat and that it really grabbed him on that first swing. He did say he thought he'd be OK to play on Wednesday.
* The Rangers wanted to be aggressive on the bases with Tim Wakefield on the mound. "With that butterfly pitch, we wanted to steal when we could," said Elvis Andrus, who had three stolen bases. Nelson Cruz also had three stolen bases as the Rangers collected a club-record nine of them. Interesting note: The Marlins are the last team to steal at least that many in a game. They stole 10 in 2000 against the Padres and also lost. The Rangers had more stolen bases than hits on Tuesday.