Derek Holland's gem not enough for Rangers in Rays' walk-off win

Posted Saturday, Sep. 08, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Ron Washington knew his postgame news conference would include questions about the way he used the Texas Rangers' bullpen late Friday night.

The Rangers went into extra innings with Koji Uehara, Michael Kirkman, Tanner Scheppers and Mark Lowe on the mound and Mike Adams and Alexi Ogando on the bench.

Adams and Ogando could have been used on multiple occasions. But they never stretched and never warmed up, and Washington and the Rangers had to sweat.

That's life as a big-league manager who is trying to save wear and tear on arms that will be needed in the postseason, assuming his team gets there.

But sticking to the plan cost the Rangers to open a three-game series as Ben Zobrist swatted a two-run homer off Lowe to send Tampa Bay to a 3-1 victory in 11 innings.

"We didn't have Adams, and we didn't have Ogando," Washington said. "But for the record: Mark Lowe's got to come in and get outs, too. Every pitcher we've got on this team has to come in and get outs.

"Don't think that just because one guy's not available, that's the reason [the Rangers lost]. That's not the reason."

The loss spoiled the best eight innings Derek Holland has pitched since the World Series last year and threatened to trim the Rangers' lead in the American League West to 4 1/2 games if Oakland were to beat Seattle.

Washington and pitching coach Mike Maddux are keenly aware of the stakes, just as they were when they watched the Rangers' bullpen run out of steam last October.

Adams had pitched in three of the previous four games, including the past two. Ogando pitched poorly Wednesday, using 21 pitches in one inning, but has worked only twice this month. Washington insisted Ogando was healthy.

"He will be available tomorrow," said Washington, who was saving closer Joe Nathan in case the Rangers took a lead.

But the decision had been made to do without Ogando and Adams, and the Rangers survived until Lowe walked B.J. Upton to start the 11th and fell behind Zobrist.

He hit a 2-0 pitch into the right-field seats for the Rays' fourth win in their past five games.

"It was a pitchers' duel all night," Washington said. "They just got the last blow."

Holland was clearly the night's star, striking out a career-high 11 and allowing only two hits in eight innings. The one run he allowed came on a solo homer by his chief nemesis, Evan Longoria, with two outs in the fourth inning.

Longoria's fourth career homer off Holland, including the postseason, was the Rays' first hit. The All-Star third baseman has a career .423 average against the Rangers' left-hander.

"I'm pretty well aware of it," Holland said. "I'm sure he is, too."

But the pitch, a four-seam fastball on the inner half, is the one Holland wanted to throw and was in the spot he wanted it. In hindsight, Holland said that he should have tried another location as Longoria was probably looking for something in.

The Tampa Bay lead, though, lasted roughly five minutes. Michael Young battled Jeremy Hellickson for eight pitches before driving the ninth just over the left-field fence to knot the score.

It was Young's seventh homer of the season but his third in five games on this road trip.

Holland kept the game tied, allowing only a two-out single to Upton in the sixth and a one-out walk to Chris Gimenez in the eighth before exiting after 116 pitches.

"I'm definitely pleased, but at the same time a win is what we wanted," Holland said. "I felt I pitched really well. I kept my defense on its toes, and they made plays behind me. I moved the ball in and out and used all my pitches."

But Washington didn't have all his pitchers. The decision not to use Adams and Ogando cost the Rangers but ultimately could pay off in October.

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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