Rangers manager Ron Washington took the blame for the late-inning loss last night because he didn't have a right-handed pitcher warming up quick enough to come into the game after Arthur Rhodes gave up a hit to lefty Johnny Damon.
Neftali Feliz did eventually start getting warm, but not in time to come in to face Evan Longoria. Rhodes has had difficulty getting right-handers out all season as they hit .286 against him before the Longoria homer. It seems clear that Rhodes is a situational lefty and in a close game probably shouldn't be facing right-handed hitters. Lefties are hitting just .150.
I agree with Washington that the club should have had a right-hander warmed up so that he had the option of bringing him in. I will say that Longoria does not hit left-handers well -- just .125 this season before that at-bat and had eight strikeouts in 16 at-bats this season -- and had never faced Rhodes. Still, Washington didn't have the option to bring in a righty because they weren't warming up and had no choice but to stick with Rhodes and he couldn't get the job done.
The bullpen continues to struggle late in close games. Mark Lowe pitched well and after the Rangers took the lead in the eighth, it was set up for a Texas victory. But, as has been the case too often this season, things fell apart when it counted most. Washington has to continue to try to mix and match things as best he can with what he's got. I still argue that Lowe is figuring things out as a primary eighth-inning setup man. So if Feliz can get things figured out, that gives the team some hope late in games.
We'll see if the bullpen once again takes center stage this afternoon in the final game of the series.