Bullpen meltdown sinks Rangers in loss to Orioles

Posted Wednesday, Jul. 02, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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A CareFlite helicopter glided over Camden Yards in the seventh inning Wednesday night, and a brief rain shower halted play an inning later.

Both were too late to save the Texas Rangers.

Not even Tim Howard could have saved this bunch.

Jason Frasor and Neal Cotts, the Rangers’ most trusted setup relievers, certainly couldn’t.

Baltimore scored five runs with Frasor and Cotts on the mound, spoiling a nice effort by Miles Mikolas in his first major league start, and the Rangers were sent to their fourth consecutive loss, 6-4, in a game that was delayed by rain in the eighth inning for 98 minutes.

The Rangers haven’t won since Yu Darvish worked eight scoreless innings Saturday against Minnesota. He’ll be on the mound Thursday, weather permitting, as the Rangers will be trying to avoid a four-game sweep to the Orioles.

Mikolas didn’t look like a starter on a big league mound for the first time. He sat down the Orioles in order in the first inning and had allowed only an Adam Jones solo homer in the fourth as he headed into the sixth inning with a 4-1 lead.

But after striking out Caleb Joseph for the first out, Mikolas issued consecutive walks to Nick Markakis and Steve Pearce and was swiftly removed in favor of Frasor as Jones came to the plate.

Frasor uncorked a wild pitch to advance the runners, and Markakis trotted home as Jones lifted a sacrifice fly to move the Orioles within two. Nelson Cruz was next, and he laced an RBI single off the left-field wall.

Frasor didn’t mind what came next, when he walked the struggling Chris Davis despite being up 1-2 in the count. Frasor wanted to face J.J. Hardy, but the shortstop followed with a one-hop smash that a diving Elvis Andrus couldn’t keep in the infield, and the game was tied at 4.

“Bad day. Bad day. We didn’t do our jobs,” Frasor said. “Fastballs away that should stay away and they came right down the middle. That’s what Nelson Cruz hit and J.J. Hardy also.”

But, essentially, the game had been lost.

Cotts entered after the Rangers went quickly in the seventh and fell behind light-hitting No. 8 batter Ryan Flaherty. But Flaherty, playing only because third baseman Manny Machado is serving a five-game suspension, won the lefty-lefty matchup with a towering homer to right field.

“He hit it a long damn way,” Cotts said. “I threw a fastball on the outside corner a little bit up. It wasn’t a terrible pitch. It got kind of ugly in the seventh inning.”

Down 5-4, Cotts got two quick outs before walking Pearce. Cotts then balked Pearce to second, a key play as Jones followed with a broken-bat single to make it 6-4.

“I brought in the two best I have, and we just didn’t get it done. Usually when one is off, one is on,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

The Rangers had led throughout on the strength of a two-out, first-inning RBI single by Alex Rios and a three-run third inning that was fueled in part by a disputed catcher’s interference call.

Adrian Beltre delivered a two-run double, and Leonys Martin, who an inning earlier had robbed Cruz of a home run, drove in Beltre two batters later with a single off right-hander Chris Tillman’s leg.

The Rangers’ offense, though, then went dormant. It missed a good chance in the sixth as Chris Gimenez reached third with one out. Michael Choice, though, grounded to third for the second out, and after two walks filled the bases, Carlos Pena grounded to first.

But the most egregious shortcomings came from the veteran arms of Frasor and Cotts, who couldn’t save the Rangers.

At this point, no one can.

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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