ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers' chances to rally and take the American League West away from the Oakland Athletics took a major hit Friday night as the A's held on for a 9-8 victory. It's the fourth straight loss for the Rangers, who are 2-9 in September.
Playoff race: The Rangers dropped to 4 1/2 games behind Oakland with 16 games to play. The Rangers are just one game up on Tampa Bay for the first wild-card spot in the AL and 2 1/2 games ahead of Cleveland for the second wild-card spot.
Holland collapses: Derek Holland had his third straight brutal start. He didn't have command of his fastball, and when he went to his off-speed pitches, the results weren't pretty. Holland put the first two runners on base in the top of the first, and after Jed Lowrie flew out to center field, Holland got up 0-2 on Yoenis Cespedes before the 2013 Home Run Derby champion cranked a fastball over the left-center field fence for a three-run home run. The A's kept the onslaught up as Josh Donaldson crushed a hanging curveball for a home run and 4-0 lead in the third inning. Holland allowed leadoff singles to Derek Norris and Kurt Suzuki to start the top of the fourth before being pulled from the game. Holland has allowed 21 runs in his last 19 1/3 innings.
First-inning runs: The Rangers did score a pair of runs in the first inning, but it was a run short of answering the A's three-run top of the inning. Kinsler and Andrus started the inning by drawing walks against Oakland starter Dan Straily and scored on an RBI single by Adrian Beltre and a sacrifice fly by A.J. Pierzynski. With the tying run at first base, Mitch Moreland lined out sharply to right field to end the inning.
Tepesch falters, too: The Rangers decided to use Tuesday's schedule starter Nick Tepesch for his second relief appearance of the season in the top of the fourth. That move backfired. Tepesch allowed a two-run double to Donaldson to give the A's a 6-2 lead. Tepesch walked Chris Young to start the fifth inning, then gave up singles to Young and Norris before another walk to Suzuki made it 7-2.
Rally begins: The Rangers did manage to load the bases down 9-2 with two outs in the bottom of the sixth. A's manager Bob Melvin pulled Straily and brought in lefty Jerry Blevins. Ron Washington pinch hit Craig Gentry for David Murphy. Blevins threw a pitch behind Gentry, then bounced back with a full count to get the Rangers' outfielder to ground out to third base.
Nearly came back: The Rangers took advantage of four walks to score six runs with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. With the bases loaded, Leonys Martin had an RBI single and Ian Kinsler walked to plate a run to cut Oakland's lead to 9-4. Elvis Andrus had a two-run single to right field to make it 9-6. Alex Rios had a single up the middle to score two more runs for a 9-8 game. Sean Doolittle then relieved the reeling Ryan Cook and allowed a Beltre single to left field. Rios tried to go from first to third and was called out by umpire Andy Fletcher. Replays showed that Rios was safe on what should have been an easy call for Fletcher. Rios argued and was ejected.
Then the 9th: Pierzynski and Jeff Baker struck out to start the inning. Then pinch hitter Robinson Chirinos had an unlikely two-strike double. That left it up to Jurickson Profar, who for the second straight at-bat took a called strike three, this one to end the game.
Bottom of the order: Nothing is more telling about the difference between the Rangers and A's than what happened Friday night with the bottom three hitters in each lineup. The combination of Young, Norris and Suzuki were 6-for-14 with three runs scored and an RBI. The Rangers' bottom three -- Jim Adduci, Murphy and Martin -- were 2-for-9 with two walks.
Up next: The Rangers will try to even the three-game series and end a four-game losing streak when ace Yu Darvish (12-8, 2.84) faces Oakland right-hander Bartolo Colon (15-6, 2.85) at 12:05 p.m. CT Saturday afternoon on FOX and ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and 1540-AM.