June 3, 2012

Errors behind Darvish send Rangers to fourth straight loss

The Rangers hold a team meeting after losing 3-2 on disputed runs to the Angels, who creep closer to first.

The doors to the visitors clubhouse at Angel Stadium didn't open to the media until well after the 10-minute cooling off period Saturday night, which is a sure-fire sign that a team meeting is being held.

Rangers manager Ron Washington felt he needed to address his team, which continues to lead the American League West even though it has played poorly for several weeks.

More sloppy play Saturday contributed to their fourth straight loss, this time 3-2 to an Anaheim team that has crept within 3 ½ games of the Rangers.

They committed three errors behind Yu Darvish, who pitched his best game in a month, and a pair of mental lapses in the field also contributed to a dismal night that included the ejection of catcher Yorvit Torrealba for arguing a critical play in the seventh inning.

The Rangers, though, pointed the fingers at themselves for the loss.

“If we play our style of baseball and we do what we're capable of, it doesn't matter,” second baseman Ian Kinsler said. “We haven't been playing good baseball. That's basically what it comes down to.”

Washington did the majority of the talking in the meeting, though a few players also expressed their thoughts. The all agreed that the recent rash of errors, a bevy of unearned runs, a lack of aggression on the bases and a failure to deliver with runners in scoring position is not what Washington called “Rangers baseball.”

Elvis Andrus, Mike Napoli and Adrian Beltre committed the errors behind Darvish, who was able to limit the damage over six innings to just one unearned run and a 1-0 deficit.

The Rangers knotted the game in the seventh, ending a frustrating scoreless stretch that featured four double plays against C.J. Wilson. But the left-hander was gone by the seventh, when David Murphy delivered a sacrifice fly for a 1-1 tie.

But the Angels scored twice in their half of the seventh, which rates as one of the most eventful innings of the Rangers' season.

Things started going screwy with one out and Erick Aybar at second base. Mike Trout hit a grounder to shortstop that Andrus insisted hit off Aybar's jersey as he attempted to go to third base.

Rather than continue with the play, either throwing to third or to first for an out, Andrus stopped to argue with second-base ump Ted Barrett. He didn't see what Andrus had seen, and all runners were safe.

“You've got to continue that play and then argue about it,” Andrus said. “For sure I saw that it hit the guy, but he [Barrett] didn't see it. There's nothing you can do.”

Aybar would score on a single by Alberto Callaspo, and the bases would be loaded when Darvish walked his last batter, Albert Pujols.

Koji Uehara entered and got Kendrys Morales to hit a shallow liner to right field. Nelson Cruz caught the ball, and fired home as Trout attempted to score.

The throw beat him, and Torrealba applied the tag. Plate ump Tim McClelland ruled Trout safe, and Torrealba threw his mask in frustration and was ejected.

A replay in the press box showed that the tag was applied just before Trout's foot came down on the plate.

“I thought he was out, period,” said Torrealba, who admitted that he hadn't seen a replay. “I thought the throw beat him. I was trying to block the plate. I don't think he [McClelland] was in the right position to tell if he was out or safe. In a close game like that and an emotional play I went off.”

The Rangers also had a beef with the Angels' first run, which was fueled by a blown call at second base to start the sixth inning. Mike Napoli muffed a popup by Albert Pujols, but recovered the ball and threw to second as Pujols tried to take the extra base.

Replays showed that Kinsler clearly tagged Pujols before he reached the bag, but Barrett signaled safe. Pujols would score two batters later as Beltre juggled a grounder for the Rangers' second error of the inning. Pujols had stolen third after Darvish ignored him during a Morales at-bat.

But had the Rangers been making the plays they were supposed to make, the umpiring wouldn't have been an issue.

“Those things come into focus when we're not playing the way we want to play,” Kinsler said.

Darvish (7-3) had one of his best starts of the season. He had a two-hit shutout through five innings and ended up allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits.

He was bailed out by an excellent defensive play to start the third, as Craig Gentry jumped and reached over the center-field wall to take a homer away from Aybar.

The Rangers closed to within a run in the eighth with an unearned run created by Andrus as he went from first to third on a Michael Young single and the throw from Torii Hunter skipped into the camera well near the Angels' dugout.

The Rangers loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth, but Josh Hamilton struck out as the Angels won for the 10th time in 11 games.

“It was a very ugly performance, and we only lost the game by one run,” Washington said. “It was the defense that killed out there tonight, and that's something we have to get back to playing consistently.

“I'm not going to single anyone out. There were a lot of things that happened out there. But we're definitely a lot better than we showed.”

How Rangers pitchers fared: Yu Darvish was the best he has been since his start at Toronto to end April. He threw strikes and allowed the defense to work behind, which might not be the best strategy right now. He deserved better, and his teammates acknowledged that. How Rangers hitters fared: They rolled into double plays in each of the first three innings to help C.J. Wilson stay around until the sixth inning. The Rangers had their best hitter up with the game on the line in the ninth inning, but Josh Hamilton struck out. Adrian Beltre fanned four times to snap his 10-game hitting streak.

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