OAKLAND, Calif. — Ron Washington, possibly the most optimistic man in the game, can find a silver lining in any loss, and, indeed, he found something positive in the Texas Rangers’ 4-2 defeat Wednesday afternoon.Heck, a two-run loss to the best team in the American League doesn’t sound all that bad. But only long man Scott Baker, who worked three scoreless innings, was granted immunity.Otherwise, Washington said, the offense wasn’t good enough, and the defense wasn’t good enough. Those two facets have shown that they can find a way to work things out.But the problems on the mound — not pitching deep enough and not providing shutdown innings — have become a way of life.It wasn’t just starter Nick Tepesch, who pitched just five innings Wednesday and couldn’t deliver a badly needed zero in the fifth. It happened in all three games, including staff ace Yu Darvish on Tuesday.The Rangers aren’t going to survive if they have to count on their bullpen to deliver three and four innings a night. Like the rest of the club, that unit isn’t at full strength, and at the rate Jason Frasor and Neal Cotts are going, their batteries will need a recharge before the All-Star break.They can avoid that, though, if Darvish and crew can deliver innings. Darvish will, of course, more times than not. But the other four starters need to prove they can do it, too.“No. 1, we’ve got to get more out of our starting pitching than five innings,” Washington said. “We have to get better on the mound.”Tepesch allowed all four runs in five innings, allowing nine hits. That’s not the end of the world, and Washington relented some by saying that Tepesch pitched well while he lasted.But he hit a wall on a warm day at O.co Coliseum in the fifth after the Rangers had just pulled even after trailing 2-0 after three. The momentum would stay in their dugout with three quick outs and one big zero.Instead, Yoenis Cespedes singled with one out and raced home as Brandon Moss followed with a double into the right-field corner. Josh Donaldson was next, and his single moved Moss to third ahead of a sacrifice fly by Stephen Vogt.Two A’s runs countered the work the Rangers’ hitters had just done, collecting two walks and two singles for two runs against Sonny Gray. Tepesch conceded that he had failed to deliver.“Anytime they put up runs, your job as a pitcher is to go out there and put up a zero,” said Tepesch, who burned through 99 pitches. “I didn’t do that.”Tepesch, though, shouldn’t shoulder all the blame.The A’s two-run rally in the third started on an infield single by speedster Craig Gentry that should have been an out. But shortstop Elvis Andrus mishandled the chopper as he raced to throw, and that brief bobble let Gentry reach.John Jaso followed with an RBI double and scored four batters later on a two-out single by Donaldson.“We should have been off the field,” Washington said.At the plate, the Rangers were 2 for 4 with runners in scoring position, but they had two-out chances evaporate in the fourth when Brad Snyder struck out and in the fifth when Adrian Beltre flied to center field with runners at the corners after the Rangers had scored twice.“We just couldn’t do much besides the first day [of the series],” right fielder Alex Rios said.The Rangers fell nine games out in the American League West after dropping two of three games to the first-place A’s. The standings aren’t yet an issue with 90 games to go, Rios and Washington said.The starting pitching, though, is trending the wrong way. It’s up to them to keep the Rangers afloat.
Jeff Wilson 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST