August 31, 2011

Rangers' offense, Ogando baffled in loss to Rays

Alexi Ogando can't figure out his control, and the Rangers' hitters can't figure out Tampa Bay's James Shields. But the Angels lose, too.

ARLINGTON -- Physically, said Alexi Ogando, all is well with his right arm. And that's part of the problem.

The right-hander can't figure out why he feels so good, but can't throw the ball where he wants it.

"I feel confused," Ogando said.

His short outing Wednesday night, when he lasted only 2 2/3 innings against Tampa Bay, might be the culmination of a difficult past few weeks in which Ogando has had a disconnect with the strike zone.

One pitch in particular, in the second inning, started a quick fall against the Rays, who got eight sparkling innings from James Shields en route to a 4-1 victory.

The Rangers remained 3 1/2 games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels in the American League West after they lost to Seattle 2-1 late Wednesday.

But the bigger issue is getting Ogando straightened out. He has identified the problem -- falling off to the left during his delivery -- but can't fix it.

"I was very sharp at the beginning of the season, but I feel in these last outings I've lost the strike zone," Ogando said. "My body, I feel that I'm good. My arm doesn't feel how I like."

Ogando worked a 1-2-3 first inning in which he struck out Evan Longoria with a 98 mph fastball. He got Ben Zobrist swinging to start the second before Casey Kotchman lined a single to center.

B.J. Upton followed and was quickly down two strikes. Ogando, though, plunked Upton in the side, and three of the next four hitters would reach.

Ogando (12-7) walked Matt Joyce to load the bases with one out, and John Jaso dropped a blooper into center field for a 1-0 lead. After Sean Rodriguez popped out, Desmond Jennings walked to force in a second run.

"After I hit Upton, I lost it," Ogando said.

The Rangers lost their best chance against Shields in the first inning, when in a similar spot as the Rays in the second. Elvis Andrus and Josh Hamilton singled with one out, and Michael Young walked to load the bases.

Mike Napoli, though, bounced into a 5-4-3 double play to end the threat.

That was the Rangers' only good chance against Shields.

"He got out of it. We didn't," said manager Ron Washington, who is planning for Ogando to make his next scheduled start Monday at Tampa Bay.

The bullpen worked brilliantly in relief of Ogando until Koji Uehara allowed a solo homer to Johnny Damon in the seventh.

That was the only hit against the relief fivesome of Yoshinori Tateyama, Matt Harrison, Uehara, Mark Lowe and Mark Hamburger in his major-league debut.

But Shields outpitched all of them. After wiggling out of the first-inning jam, he allowed only two hits over the next seven innings. He retired 15 straight before Andrus tripled with two outs in the sixth.

That brought up Hamilton, who struck out to end the inning. Shields would strike out the side in the seventh and give way after throwing 110 pitches in eight innings.

"He's a pretty good pitcher," Andrus said. "Every time you're facing a tough guy, you've got to try to score in any way. Sometimes it can be doing the little stuff and not trying to do too much. But he's really tough."

The Rangers broke through in the ninth with two outs and brought the tying run to the plate, but Kyle Farnsworth struck out Yorvit Torrealba to end the game.

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

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