Off days are always nice, but the Texas Rangers’ break today might be needed.
The Rangers continued their offensive struggles, ran into trouble on the base paths and spoiled a quality start for the second straight day in a 5-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Sunday afternoon at Target Field.
Texas became the last team in the majors to lose consecutive games, and the first team to be shut out by Minnesota. The Rangers remain in first place in the American League West, and ended a difficult stretch in which 13 of their past 16 games were on the road.
“It seems like we haven’t been home in forever,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “It feels like we were home three days in the last month, so it’ll be nice to get back, get away from baseball for a day and try to get back a little bit of normalcy.”
Sunday’s game was eerily similar to Saturday’s. Both days saw the starting pitchers turn in starts of three earned runs through at least six innings that featured ill-timed home runs, while the offense couldn’t come through with timely hits.
Alexi Ogando retired the first eight batters, and didn’t allow a run until the fourth inning. He walked Josh Willingham, who moved to third on a single by Justin Morneau and scored on a sacrifice fly by Chris Parmelee.
Ogando didn’t run into trouble again until he had two outs in the sixth. He walked Willingham again and then left a first-pitch slider over the plate that Morneau sent into the right-field seats.
Ogando said he was being too cautious and careful with Willingham, and his outing came down to the next pitch to Morneau.
“He had been throwing Morneau those breaking balls and tried to get one over for a strike,” manager Ron Washington said. “He was sitting on it and didn’t miss it.”
Ogando took the loss, allowing three runs on four hits, with two walks and three strikeouts over six innings.
The Twins extended their lead with two more runs in the seventh on RBI singles by Jamey Carroll and Brian Dozier, both charged to Rangers reliever Joe Ortiz.
One run would have been enough for the Twins, though. Starter Kevin Correia kept the Rangers off-balance all day by changing speeds and using his cutter effectively.
Correia didn’t allow a hit until Mitch Moreland singled with one out in the third inning, but Moreland considered going to second and was thrown out before he could retreat to first.
In the fourth, the Rangers had their first two batters reach with the heart of the order coming up but couldn’t score. Adrian Beltre struck out swinging, followed by groundouts from Pierzynski and Nelson Cruz.
Texas also stranded two runners on base in the fifth inning and finished 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position.
“We had some opportunities and we just couldn’t get a base hit at the right time to make a difference,” Washington said. “You’ve got to give Correia credit.”
It was the best outing in a strong start to the season by Correia, who scattered six hits with one walk and two strikeouts over eight innings. Twins reliever Casey Fien worked around a one-out single in a scoreless ninth.
The Rangers were held scoreless for only the second time. Five Rays pitchers combined for a shutout on April 10.
As Pierzynski accurately said, “It’s hard to win when you don’t score any runs.”
The Rangers scored eight runs over the four-game series, and went 4 for 32 (.125) with runners in scoring position. Over the seven-game road trip, Texas went 13 for 67 (.197) with RISP.
Nobody is complaining about the off day.
“It’s definitely needed right now,” Washington said. “We’ll get refreshed and be ready to go Tuesday.”