June 6, 2013

Lance Berkman takes blame for Rangers’ loss to Boston

The first baseman says his poor seventh-inning throw led to the Red Sox’s walk-off win.

Try to forget about the ninth inning Thursday night and Jonny Gomes’ screaming liner for a leadoff double, the intentional walk to Dustin Pedroia and the frozen rope David Ortiz hit for a game-winning homer.

All of that came against Michael Kirkman, the beleaguered Texas Rangers reliever.

But none of it should have happened, Lance Berkman said.

The game wasn’t lost when Ortiz’s home run landed in the Rangers’ bullpen for a 6-3 Boston victory. The Red Sox prevailed because Berkman, playing his second game of the season at first base and the first with Mitch Moreland on the disabled list, skipped a throw to second base two innings earlier.

It also didn’t help that the Rangers went 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position, with the final miss being a Berkman strikeout with a runner at second base in the ninth.

Despite Berkman’s mea culpa and his insistence that he is the reason the Rangers lost, it’s still pretty hard to forget about Kirkman, who can’t seem to do anything right.

“It certainly seems that way,” manager Ron Washington said.

Kirkman insists that once he’s in a game he isn’t thinking about his season-long struggles, which hit a crescendo in the finale at Fenway Park. He has allowed 10 hits and six runs in his past two innings, and his ERA is the highest among qualifying American League relievers.

It’s a hat-sized 8.18, and that’s a big hat.

The Rangers have said that Kirkman was pitching into bad luck and that his stuff is good, but the two actual pitches he threw to Gomes and Ortiz — one apiece — were hit as hard as any other balls Thursday night.

“I feel like I’m making some pretty good pitches,” said Kirkman, who was pleased with the pitch Ortiz hit. “Inside fastball right where I wanted it. Apparently he was sitting on that pitch.”

The Rangers went to Kirkman after using Robbie Ross, Jason Frasor and Tanner Scheppers in the seventh and eighth innings. Ross inherited a 3-2 lead but got only one out and left with the bases loaded.

Frasor was summoned from the bullpen and got Mike Napoli to hit a hard grounder at Berkman. The ball jumped late into Berkman’s waist and left him flat-footed. His throw to second base one-hopped shortstop Elvis Andrus, whose throw back to Frasor was too late for the double play.

Jacoby Ellsbury, who started the inning with a double, scored to forge a 3-3 tie.

“The play there is to try for the double play,” Berkman said. “If I make a decent throw, I think we turn it, no problem. If we can get the game to our eighth- and ninth-inning guys with a lead, we have a good chance of winning that game.”

Scheppers pitched a scoreless eighth inning, but after working Wednesday, he was unavailable for another inning. Neal Cotts was also unavailable after 23 pitches Wednesday.

That left Kirkman and Ross Wolf.

“Kirkman was the most rested,” Washington said. “Kirkman was the guy.”

Jeff Baker and Adrian Beltre connected for early home runs, and Derek Holland allowed two runs in six labor-intensive innings and left with a 3-2 lead.

Baker struck against Jon Lester in the second after A.J. Pierzynski had opened with a double. Beltre’s homer came with one out in the third and moments after Berkman had been thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double.

Pedroia got the Red Sox going with a two-out, two-run double in the bottom of the inning, which started with Holland walking No. 8 hitter Jose Iglesias.

But Berkman did some good with his glove, getting Ellsbury at home for the first out of the fifth inning and helping Holland escape with a 3-2 lead. Holland wiggled free again in the sixth, striking out Pedro Ciriaco to end the inning with runners at second and third.

But the Rangers missed too many scoring chances. They had runners in scoring position in three of the final four innings but went 0 for 6 in those situations.

“That usually comes back to bite you,” Berkman said. “But it’s a lot easier to turn a double play than it is to get a hit with runners in scoring position.”

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