June 16, 2013

Rangers’ run drought ties record in fifth straight loss

A pair of two-run homers doom Josh Lindblom’s third major-league start.

Only one other offense in Texas Rangers history has gone as badly at home for as long as the 2013 version has over the past five games.

The prolonged dearth with no more than two runs — tying the mark for futility set in 2009 — means that the pitching staff essentially is working with no margin for error.

That would be a problem if Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis and Alexi Ogando were healthy. It becomes magnified when inexperienced injury replacements are pressed into action.

Such was the plight Saturday for Josh Lindblom, who turned in a performance against Toronto in his third big-league start that would satisfy the masses under normal circumstances.

But this isn’t the normal Rangers offense, and the four runs he allowed in six innings on a steamy day at Rangers Ballpark weren’t good enough with an offense that just can’t score enough.

Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus hit two-run homers off Lindblom to provide R.A. Dickey and four relievers with more than enough support in a 6-1 Blue Jays victory that sent the Rangers to their fifth straight loss.

“What the offense does has zero bearing on what we do as pitchers,” Lindblom said. “Our job is to go out and execute pitches and compete.

“Some days you’re going to get five or six or seven runs to work with, and other days you’re going to get one. The game moves on from pitch to pitch, so that’s all you really have to worry about.”

Lindblom (0-2) made two mistakes on his 26th birthday. The first was on a 1-2 pitch to Lind that Lindblom said was a physical error, a hanging curveball that Lind clanged off the right-field foul pole for a quick 2-0 lead.

But he rebounded to retire the next eight hitters before Lind singled into the gap in left-center field with one out in the fourth and Rasmus followed with a 371-footer into the right-field seats. He hit a three-run homer in the fourth inning Friday.

Lindblom called that pitch, a changeup over the plate, a mental mistake after pounding Rasmus inside in his first at-bat.

“In that situation you’ve got to stay in and attack him,” Lindblom said.

Lindblom is scheduled to get one more start, Thursday against Oakland, before Ogando is eligible to come off the disabled list. Lindblom, though, has pitched better in his past two outings than fellow inexperienced right-handers Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm.

Lindblom isn’t a rookie after breaking into the majors as a reliever, but he was converted to a starter only in April at Triple A Round Rock. That said, he was the starting pitcher Monday, the last time the Rangers won a game, and feels as though his past two starts have been mostly positive.

“I’m still learning on the fly as a starter,” he said. “I’ve induced some weak contact when I’ve needed it and have tried to keep the ball on the ground. It’s been good. It’s all been positive.”

The Rangers finally scored in the sixth after loading the bases with one out on three straight singles. Leonys Martin drove home Nelson Cruz on a fielder’s choice, but the Rangers needed a base hit.

The run snapped a streak of 21 innings without a run, the longest drought since the 2009 team’s noted drought in the second and third weeks of September 2009, a period that opened with the Rangers only two games out of the wild-card spot.

Manager Ron Washington and left fielder David Murphy saw positive signs against Dickey, who allowed seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. At-bats were longer, contact was better, and the Rangers gave themselves more opportunities to score.

But they went only 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position, and the one hit didn’t drive in a run.

“It’s just simple baseball, getting base hits with runners in scoring position,” Washington said. “We had more opportunities today than we’ve given ourselves the past four or five days.

“It’s just a matter of time. We’re going to keep grinding. There will be some good things ahead when we get out of it.”

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