A discussion on who or what is the toughest out in baseball generates more talk in social media forums than Kardashians gabbing at Sunday brunch.
For Robbie Ross recently, the toughest out has been the most timely.
And for the Rangers in general these days, Houston’s Jason Castro.
For the second time in a week, Ross gave up the go-ahead home run, a three-run blast by Castro on a 3-2 pitch after Ross was ahead in the count 0-2. Castro belted the delivery into the right-center-field seats in the top of the seventh, sending the Astros to a 9-5 victory Saturday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Through the first six innings, the toughest out was the third.
Rangers starter Yu Darvish, selected by the players to his second All-Star Game on Saturday, gave up a two-out, two-run home run to Brandon Barnes in the fourth to break a scoreless tie.
Barnes’ homer was the 15th that Darvish allowed this season, one more than he gave up all of last year.
Darvish (8-4) gave up five runs on six hits and allowed four of those runs on two-out rallies in the fourth and fifth innings.
After loading the bases with two outs in the fifth — including putting a pair on with walks — Darvish allowed a two-run single to Marc Krauss, who came into the game with a .067 average in 10 games with the Astros, to fall behind 4-0.
“Looking at today’s performance, I didn’t perform like an All-Star,” Darvish said. “It’s unbelievable that I’ve been selected.”
Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel pitched five-plus innings before leaving with runners at the corners and no outs in the sixth, just before the Rangers made up the four-run deficit.
Mitch Moreland drove in Elvis Andrus with a sacrifice fly off reliever Paul Clemens and, with two outs, Geovany Soto stroked a three-run homer — his fourth this season — into the Astros‘ bullpen in left-center field.
Darvish walked Jose Altuve to start the seventh before being lifted for Ross.
Ross then hit Brett Wallace before Castro stepped in and put the Astros ahead for good.
“He’s like a hitter,” manager Ron Washington said of Ross. “He goes into a slump. He’s got to figure a way out of it. No one feels worse than Robbie. You just have to keep battling.
“When things aren’t going right, they hit everything. When things are going good, you leave a pitch in the middle of the plate, they pop it up or they roll over it. It’s just part of the game of baseball, but you have to fight over it.”
Ross is almost certainly ready for the week to be over.
The Rangers’ left-handed reliever surrendered a go-ahead home run to Seattle’s Kyle Seager on Wednesday and has a 6.15 ERA in his last 16 1/3 innings, including six runs in his last seven games.
“It’s not fun going out there when the guys are out there battling for you and to come in and do that out there, so it’s frustrating,” he said. “It’s just a little rut in the road, I guess.
“Hopefully, I can overcome it and work my way back to feeling normal again.”
Tanner Scheppers followed Ross but recorded only one out in the eighth while allowing a two-run home run to Jake Elmore and a double to Wallace, who reached base all five times he made a plate appearance for Houston, going 2 for 2 with two walks in addition to being hit by a pitch.
Ross and Scheppers, who is a candidate to make the All-Star team as a fan choice, have been good this season under heavy workloads. Both have appeared in 40 or more games.
Washington said fatigue is not a reason for Ross’ recent slide but that it was simply the nature of the game.
“It’s obvious the guys have been taking on a workload,” Washington said. “This is major league baseball. In the major leagues, you have a workload.
“... We just didn’t get it done.”