June 26, 2013

Ichiro’s ninth-inning blast snaps Rangers’ five-game streak

Tanner Scheppers allows the game-winner, but Yu Darvish gives up three homers for the first time in his career.

Tanner Scheppers stood tall in front of his locker Tuesday night and took the blame for the Texas Rangers’ first loss in a week. After all, he said, he was the pitcher who threw the pitch that ended the game.

While the solo homer Scheppers allowed to Ichiro Suzuki with two outs in the ninth inning lifted New York to a 4-3 victory, the three long balls that Yu Darvish allowed sunk the Rangers.

Darvish gave up three homers for the first time as a professional, and the Yankees’ four solo shots trumped two from Leonys Martin and snapped the Rangers’ five-game winning streak.

Darvish hasn’t won since May 16, a span of seven consecutive starts, and the Rangers have won only once in those seven games. Run support has been an issue, but the Rangers twice gave him a two-run lead.

“It was a game we certainly should have held on to win,” manager Ron Washington said.

Two of the three homers issued by Darvish, to lead off the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, went to right field, where the ball carries at Yankee Stadium. But they came on poorly executed pitches.

Martin provided the game’s first run with a line shot into the right-field seats in the third inning, and Mitch Moreland made it 2-0 in the fourth on a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded.

Travis Hafner connected on a 68-mph hanging curveball to chop a the lead in half in the Yankees’ fourth, but Martin connected again against Hiroki Kuroda to start the fifth for a 3-1 lead.

Martin had the first multi-homer game of his career, but he wasn’t in a celebrating mood afterward.

“I was really glad that it happened, but it would have been much better if we’d won the game,” he said. “Since we lost, it’s just another game.”

But Brett Gardner went deep in the sixth on a slider that stayed up, and Jayson Nix found the seats for the second time this season on another fat breaking pitch to open the sixth.

“My plan was to adjust to every hitter, and I was able to do that for a few innings,” said Darvish, who labored to 110 pitches in 5 1/3 innings. “I wish I could take back Hafner’s home run.”

Neal Cotts retired all five batters he faced, and Scheppers was perfect in the eighth on only 11 pitches. He returned for the ninth after Mariano Rivera (1-1) pitched around a two-out single by Moreland, but Scheppers walked Chris Stewart to open the inning.

Stewart was erased on Gardner’s fielder’s choice, and A.J. Pierzynski threw out Gardner trying to steal on the next pitch for what appeared to be a huge second out. Ichiro, though, drove a 97-mph fastball into the seats on a 1-2 pitch.

“We tried to go fastball in, and it drifted back over the middle,” Pierzynski said. “Schepp’s been so go for us this year, and he basically made one mistake.”

Scheppers suffered his first loss after five wins to start the season.

“I think it was probably just the wrong pitch at the wrong time,” Scheppers said. “He’s a great hitter, and I’d probably shown him too many fastballs in that at-bat. It didn’t happen, and I’ll wear that loss tonight.”

The Rangers had left-hander Robbie Ross warming, but he was going to pitch if Robinson Cano batted after Suzuki. The Rangers were playing the numbers against Suzuki, who entered with a .354 average against lefties and only .226 against righties.

But the key number Tuesday night was three. That’s how many home runs Darvish allowed, and the Rangers lost yet again with their ace pitcher on the mound.

“We feel good with anyone on the mound and a 3-1 lead,” Pierzynski said. “We’re used to him going out there and finishing it off.”

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