ARLINGTON, Texas -- Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers and manager Ron Washington weren't about to pin Saturday night's 9-5 loss to the Houston Astros on the two relievers being overworked 87 games into the season.
They just got beat, and both pitchers said it's time to adjust and get their mojo back.
After the Rangers had tied the game at four on Geovany Soto's surprising three-run home run, Ross and Scheppers each gave up home runs to put the game out of reach.
They're both at 40 appearances or more this season, hovering around the top five for workload in the American League. That's not why the Rangers' best two relievers after closer Joe Nathan are slumping at the same time. At least that's the company line.
"That's an excuse," Washington said of their 82 combined appearances. "The guys have been taking on a workload. We didn't get the job done. [The Astros] scored nine runs against three of our best pitchers."
The Astros scored five runs on Rangers starter Yu Darvish and two each on Ross and Scheppers. The game got away from Texas in the top of the seventh, right after Soto had revived hope for the 44,272 at Rangers Ballpark.
Darvish started the seventh after the Rangers' long bottom of the sixth -- eight hitters batted in the inning -- and he walked Astros leadoff hitter Jose Altuve on five pitches. At 113 pitches, Darvish was pulled by Washington and Ross took the ball.
Ross, appearing in his 40th game to lead all AL left-handers, hit Brett Wallace with a pitch. Ross then got ahead of Jason Castro with two quick strikes, worked the count full and gave up a 427-foot home run to put the Rangers behind 7-4. It was the second go-ahead homer Ross has allowed in the late innings this week.
"He's just getting too much of the plate," Washington said.
Ross said he feels great and his workload has nothing to do with his minislump. He's allowed three home runs in five outings after not giving up one in his first 35 games.
"It's a little rut in the road," Ross said. "I have to work my way back to feeling normal again."
Ross has been ahead of hitters 0-2 twice this week and allowed home runs on full counts. First, it was Seattle's Kyle Seager in Wednesday's 4-2 loss in 11 innings. This time, it was Castro.
Ross said he's not being aggressive enough and picking around the strike zone instead of pitching to contact once he's ahead of hitters. The results haven't been pretty.
"It's frustrating, especially against lefties," Ross said. "Hopefully, I can come back and figure it out."
Scheppers, who has now allowed runs in five of his past six appearances, was named as a nominee for the Final Vote for the last spot on the AL All-Star team (fans vote for the final player). He wasn't in a celebratory mood after the game.
He put the Rangers in a 9-5 hole in the top of the eighth with what he called "a bad slider" to Astros shortstop Jake Elmore, who hit a two-run shot for his first big league home run.
Scheppers has allowed five earned runs in his past four innings after allowing two in his first 39 innings.
"It definitely hasn't been smooth," Scheppers said. "The game of baseball humbles you pretty quickly. I just have to go out there and make the adjustments. Obviously, [opposing hitters] are [making adjustments]."
Scheppers also refused to use overwork as a reason for struggling of late.
"This is my first full year," Schepper said. "I'm not exactly how sure that works. My body feels fine. Everything feels fine. I just need to make better pitches."