ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers nearly pulled off a miracle rally Friday night.
A split-second decision by Alex Rios and a blown call by third base umpire Andy Fletcher left 40,180 at Rangers Ballpark wondering what could have been after a 9-8 loss to the first-place Oakland Athletics. The what would have been stings, with the Rangers falling 4 1/2 games behind the A's in the American League West.
The Rangers had already scored six runs with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, then Rios' two-run single up the middle had cut the lead to 9-8. That brought cleanup hitter Adrian Beltre to the plate as the go-ahead run.
Beltre laced a single into left field off Oakland reliever Sean Doolittle. Rios made the decision to go from first to third base, seeing that he likely would beat Yoenis Cespedes' throw. There was some risk -- Cespedes has a strong arm -- but the speedy Rios figured he would make it.
Rios slid in ahead of the throw by Cespedes and beat the tag of A's third baseman Josh Donaldson. Fletcher saw it differently and called Rios out, killing a dramatic Rangers' rally.
Fletcher made his call -- though replays showed that Rios was clearly safe -- then ejected the Rangers' right fielder for arguing.
"I was just trying to be aggressive getting to third," Rios said. "There are many different ways I can score. We don't have to rely on a base hit. I can score on a passed ball or any situation."
"I was correct. I believe I was safe on that call."
What made this particular call frustrating for the Rangers was that Rios beat the throw.
"From where I was, it looked like [Alex's] feet got in there and [Donaldson] tagged him high," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "[Fletcher] said he got him before the feet got in there."
Rios made no apologies for getting tossed, and Fletcher offered no explanation to Rios for why he was called out.
The Rangers are fighting for the division title or a wild-card spot, and for a call to be missed at that point in the game pushed Rios over the edge.
"That particular part of the game, there are a lot of emotions," Rios said. "We're making a comeback. We're fired up.
"To have a rally killed like that, it's disappointing."
Knowing that instant replay will be here next season to fix mistakes like Fletcher's doesn't ease the Rangers' pain.