ARLINGTON, Texas -- This isn’t about a young pitcher trying to finish an inning, because while Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington wants to see that, the reality of this portion of the Rangers' season is hinging more and more on the hitters' lack of production.
On the hottest day of the season -- it was 100 degrees at first pitch -- the Oakland Athletics, the best team in baseball it would seem, took two of three games here by winning the rubber game 9-3 on Sunday evening.
The Rangers have now lost two in row and seven of 10 to start the second half of the year. It has gotten so bad around here, the Astros (42-63), in the midst of a five-game losing streak, could have fallen into a tie with the Rangers for the worst record in baseball on Sunday.
The Rangers (41-64) maintain that, still.
The 25-year-old Miles Mikolas struggled, allowing five runs in the second inning when the A’s took control and he couldn’t get out of the fifth, but you can’t blame everything on him.
So where are the Rangers' hitters in key situations?
There was Adam Rosales’ first homer of the year, a two-run shot to left, cutting a 5-0 deficit to three. After that, not much else and that’s one of the problems.
The hitters' failures: Busting out of slumps is one thing and getting timely hitting is another. The Rangers had runners reach base in six innings and delivered a run twice: Rosales’ two-run homer and Adrian Beltre's solo shot in the eighth. Two of the biggest opportunities came in the third and fifth innings.
With two on and two outs, J.P. Arencibia had a chance to come through, but instead struck out. In the fifth, with the bases loaded, he was up again, but A’s starter Scott Kazmir (12-3) struck him out swinging on a belt-high, 93-mph fastball.
One note about this inning was a lack of patience by Shin-Soo Choo. After Daniel Robertson started the inning with a single, Choo attacked the first pitch and hit into a 4-6-3 double play. Why not work the count a little? At that point, Kazmir had thrown 75 pitches. With two outs, Andrus worked the count to 1-2 and singled to left. Alex Rios then singled to center and Beltre walked.
Arencibia of course ended the threat with a strikeout. Given the injuries to the Rangers this season, Mitch Moreland and Prince Fielder would be in this lineup and are better options than Arencibia. But this is what Washington has to deal with.
Mikolas’ night turns in the fifth: The right-hander pitched wonderfully in his most recent start in New York, where he beat the Yankees on a Monday night in the Bronx. He gave up five runs, four earned, while throwing 34 pitches in the second inning. The biggest mistake he made wasn’t throwing to a hitter, but to shortstop Elvis Andrus. Mikolas fielded a comebacker and while throwing to second in an attempt to get the second out, he threw wide of the bag, allowing all the runners to be safe. When the inning ended, he had walked two, allowed two doubles and was down 5-0.
In the fifth, he didn’t finish the inning after getting two outs. Eric Sogard kept the inning alive with a two-out RBI double to right. Former Ranger Craig Gentry walked, and Washington decided to make a pitching change. Mikolas allowed eight runs, seven earned, on seven hits in 4⅔ innings. It was the second-shortest outing this season.
Beltre did have a nice night, getting on base three times, and he smashed his 15th homer of the year in the eighth.
What’s next? Yu Darvish looks to end this two-game losing streak by facing the Yankees for the second time in less than a week. Darvish (9-6, 2.92) takes on David Phelps (5-4, 3.77). It’s a rematch of Wednesday’s rain/grounds crew fiasco, which the Yankees won 2-1 when the game was called in the bottom of the fifth due to rain/grounds.