Wash sticks with Mitch Moreland vs. lefty

ARLINGTON, Texas -- When it came down to it Wednesday afternoon, Rangers manager Ron Washington stuck by his everyday first baseman, Mitch Moreland. Nine games into the season, why wouldn't he?

Washington has managed like this since he arrived in Arlington in 2007. He sticks by his guys. With the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning and Lance Berkman available to pinch hit, Washington stayed with Moreland against Rays left-handed reliever Cesar Ramos, even though his first baseman had struck out twice against lefty Matt Moore.

"It was all about Moreland out there today," Washington said. "I had no intentions of using Berkman right there."

Moreland grounded into a double play, starting off three straight innings in which the Rangers had at least two runners on and couldn't scratch out a run. They lost to the Rays 2-0, foiling their chances at a three-game sweep.

The debate is there -- should Washington have pinch hit for Moreland with Berkman, who was given a planned day off by his manager?

Berkman is off to a hot start, batting .480 for the season. Moreland was 1-for-10 against lefties after the two strikeouts, but hit well in lefty-lefty matchups during the spring.

Ramos threw Moreland a 2-0 fastball, the exact pitch he was looking for in that count.

"That's it," Moreland said. "That's what I was looking for."

Moreland stayed aggressive and hit a sharp ground ball, but it was right at second baseman Kelly Johnson. The Rays turned it into a double play with Rangers right fielder Jeff Baker getting called for sliding out of the base path to break up the twin killing, eliminating Moreland.

"It was a good pitch, a fastball," Moreland said. "It was down the middle, a touch away. It was a good strike."

Washington was adamant about staying with Moreland in the sixth inning. Moreland did single in his last at-bat in the ninth off Rays All-Star closer Fernando Rodney, who is right-handed. Washington has made a commitment to Moreland and he's staying with it -- again, as he should.

"Nine games into the season and I'm giving an opportunity for Moreland to face left-handers," Washington said. "When I get to the opportunity where I don't think he can handle them, I'll take him out. Until then, he's facing left-handers."

The Rangers had chances in the seventh and eighth innings. With two runners on and two outs in the seventh, Elvis Andrus grounded out to end the inning.

With one out in the eighth, David Murphy had a double that moved Adrian Beltre to third. Washington elected to pinch hit with left-handed hitter Leonys Martin over Berkman. Martin hit a shallow fly ball to right field and Beltre was thrown out at home on a strong throw by the Rays' Ben Zobrist as the Rangers again made two outs on one play.

It was one last time Washington passed up Berkman.

"He was available if I wanted to," Washington said. "But my manager's choice. I gave him the full day off."