Again, Rangers can't get shutdown inning

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Veteran players who have played the game for a long, long time and a manager who has been around baseball for more than four decades have never seen anything like this.

Sixty-three innings of not once having a lead. It's mystifying. It's frustrating. It's a lot of things.

It's the Texas Rangers losing again Monday night for their seventh consecutive defeat. Texas has gone from leading the AL West at the start of September to holding on for dear life for the second wild-card spot, a half-game ahead of the Cleveland Indians.

The Rangers are 2-12 for the month, and manager Ron Washington is at a loss for what's going on. The Rangers had a players-only meeting on Monday before a game with wild-card race implications against the Tampa Bay Rays, but even that couldn't keep the submarine from plunging further into the depths.

"I don't think the dictionary or thesaurus or encyclopedia has the word I am right now," Washington said when asked what he's feeling. "I'm not frustrated. I'm confused.

"I'm trying to figure out what I can do to jump-start this offense. It's showed throughout the year that they're capable. We haven't been able to get it done."

There is one obvious solution, and it didn't happen on Monday night. And it's not about the offense.

"We need a game like Yu [Darvish] threw the other day [against the Oakland Athletics]," designated hitter Lance Berkman said of Darvish's second straight 1-0 loss. "Actually, we need a game where we're never behind, even if we get through four or five innings with a 0-0 game. That's hard to ask of your pitching staff to give you a game like that."

The Rangers will start Alexi Ogando on Tuesday night with the hope he'll put up zeroes for three or four innings. Nick Tepesch or Travis Blackley might be able to give you five or six innings, but it's Ogando who gives the Rangers the best chance for shutdown innings at the start of the game.

It's something they didn't get from Matt Garza on Monday night.

Twice the Rangers scored runs to tie the game in the top of the fourth and fifth innings. And twice Garza let the Rays retake the lead in the bottom of the inning.

The bottom of the fifth was the bigger disaster. Garza didn't make it out of the inning, allowing four consecutive hits after striking out Yunel Escobar for the first out. It's the third consecutive start in which he has allowed a big inning at a crucial point in the game.

Shutdown innings. The Rangers can't get one from their starting rotation.

"That's the game," Washington said. "Your team scored, you want to go out there and put up zeroes. We just haven't been able to get it."

Garza allowed a one-out double to David DeJesus and the Rays' hits kept coming. Ben Zobrist put runners at first and third with a single. James Loney squibbed a single inside the third-base bag for a 3-2 lead. Evan Longoria went up the middle for an RBI single. Rookie Wil Myers basically put the game out of reach with a thunderous double off reliever Jason Frasor for a 6-2 Rays lead.

"My job is to put a zero on the board," Garza said. "That's what I need to start doing. I need to keep us in ballgames. That's what I have to start doing."

The Rangers' offense showed some spunk by rallying from one-run deficits in the fourth and fifth innings, and Ian Kinsler was right in the middle of both.

He had a double to open the top of the fourth, an inning in which Alex Rios ultimately scored on A.J. Pierzynski's two-out single. Kinsler tied the game at 2-2 in the fifth with a double to right field.

But he also made two outs on the bases maybe trying to do too much. In the fourth, Kinsler tried to distract Rays starter Alex Cobb by dashing toward home with one out and Rios at the plate. Rios hit a grounder sharply to third and Kinsler, who didn't keep going home, got caught in a rundown.

Then in the fifth he was the tying run at second with Elvis Andrus at the plate when Kinsler got caught trying to steal third base with two outs.

Washington said he was OK with Kinsler trying to steal the bag.

"Ian was being Ian," Washington said. "That's the way we play."