Ron Washington had one hope above all others for the second half of the season, and it had nothing to do with Matt Garza or a right-handed hitter or world peace.
No. 1 on the Texas Rangers’ manager wish list was more success with runners in scoring position. He was aiming a little high with a request for a 1.000 batting average, but just one-tenth of that might have made a difference Friday night.
The Rangers went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position, and their lack of production spoiled eight strong innings by Derek Holland in a 3-1 loss to Baltimore to open the second half of the season.
“Opportunities were there,” Washington said after the Rangers lost their third straight game to the Orioles and five of their past six overall.
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“We just didn’t cash them in, and they did. That’s what this game is about — opportunities and taking advantage of them. We just didn’t tonight. We put ourselves in position to do it. That’s on us.”
Derek Holland (8-5) allowed three runs in eight innings for his staff-leading 14th quality start of the season, but he was bit twice with two outs and once by less-than-stellar defense.
But the biggest thing that kept him from winning a fourth straight start was the Rangers’ lack of timely hits, a recurring theme. They are 4 for 38 (.108) with runners in scoring position the past six games, are batting only .242 this season, and had their chances against Wei-Yen Chen in the fourth inning through the seventh.
Elvis Andrus doubled with one out in the first and was stranded there, though A.J. Pierzynski’s softer liner appeared to hit the right-field line before being ruled foul.
“If it’s a half-inch to the left, it’s 1-0 and we’re off and rolling,” Pierzynski said.
Adrian Beltre was robbed of a home run to start the fourth as Nick Markakis jumped and reached his glove over the right-field wall to catch Beltre’s drive.
Jeff Baker scored the Rangers’ first run later in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Craig Gentry after taking third base as the Orioles’ infield was late to shift into its normal alignment after a walk to Mitch Moreland.
Leonys Martin, though, missed a two-out chance to drive home Moreland two batters later by striking out.
Ian Kinsler started the fifth with a double and was at third with one out, but Pierzynski tapped back to the pitcher and Beltre bounced out to third base.
In the sixth, Baker was out trying to get back to third after getting a late stop sign from third-base coach Gary Pettis on a Gentry double. What would have been second and third with no outs fizzled as Profar popped out to end the inning.
“If I say what I think, I throw somebody under the bus,” Washington said. “It was just a play we messed up. It’ll get better.”
Kinsler had another double in the seventh, this time with one out as the last batter Chen faced, but he got only as far as third base.
The Rangers’ final failed at-bat with a runner in scoring position came in the ninth, as Andrus bounced into a fielder’s choice with runners at first and second.
“We were so close,” Andrus said. “When you’re that close and not able to execute, for sure you get a little mad. The only way to win games it to create opportunities. Sooner or later we’re going to get a key hit.”
Holland threw 119 pitches and allowed only six hits, but he lost for the first time since June 16. Matt Wieters got him for a two-out solo shot in the second, and Nate McLouth doubled home Brian Roberts after a leadoff walk in the third.
The Rangers were down only 2-1 and Holland had recorded two quick outs in the fifth before a Manny Machado grounder up the middle was scored as a hit as Ian Kinsler’s throw from behind second base skipped and couldn’t be dug out by Moreland.
Markakis followed with a slicing fly ball that eluded a diving Gentry in left-center field and bounced far enough away from left fielder Profar to allow Machado to race home with the game’s final run.
“It’s not like we gave it away,” Holland said. “We were busting our tails out there. Things just weren’t going our way.”
But no one was pointing the finger at Holland.
“We didn’t hit with men in scoring position,” Beltre said. “We got many opportunities, we didn’t come through, and that was the key to the game today.”