The biggest series to date for the Texas Rangers has ended with them tied for first place in the American League West, which wasn’t the worst possible outcome after three games at O.co Coliseum.
But the route the Rangers took in losing two of three games was disconcerting. Their top two pitchers didn’t deliver against the team the Rangers have to beat to win the division, and the offense belched its way to a .167 average with runners in scoring position.
The bats were actually decent in those situations in the finale Wednesday, but Yu Darvish struggled through his worst start of the season. That’s nothing new for him against Oakland.
Darvish has a serious problem with the A’s, and, with 23 games remaining this season, so do the Rangers.
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Darvish allowed five runs in five innings, walked a season-high six batters and Oakland scored six times in the sixth inning to pull away with an 11-4 victory and pull even with the Rangers atop the AL West.
“He wasn’t at his best,” manager Ron Washington said. “It wasn’t a good day. That’s all. He didn’t have his command, and that can happen. There’s nothing we need to push a panic button on. Yu’s human.”
The Rangers will wake up Thursday morning in Orange County tied with the A’s, but will likely hit the sack a half-game back. Oakland welcomes Houston to town for a four-game series that kicks off a relative cakewalk to the end of the season.
The Rangers, meanwhile, will face a surging Anaheim team this weekend, and the schedule will only get more difficult over the next two weeks. Included in the span are three more head-to-head games with Oakland, next weekend at Rangers Ballpark.
But the series loss this week to the A’s wasn’t the end of their season.
“We would have liked to win two of three,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “We had a chance in the first game, and we had a chance today. It was a fun series.”
Brandon Moss and Daric Barton hit two-run homers off Darvish, who had allowed four earned runs twice this season. The most recent time was against the A’s, and he is 0-3 with a 5.29 ERA against them this season.
Since coming to the big leagues last year, Darvish is 1-5 with a 4.86 ERA against Oakland. He will likely start against them next weekend.
“They have good numbers against me right now, but I think that’s going to change,” Darvish said.
For two batters it looked like Darvish would be working toward another quality start. He quickly retired Coco Crisp and Josh Donaldson, but then walked Jed Lowrie on four pitches and coughed up Moss’ homer.
Darvish (12-7) walked two in the first and the A’s got a sacrifice fly from Crisp in the second for a 3-0 lead.
Darvish also managed to have an animated mound meeting with Pierzynski, and Darvish walked away from pitching coach Mike Maddux during another mound visit.
Pierzynski said he doesn’t pay attention those things, and Darvish claimed to have no communication issues with Pierzynski or Maddux. But some on the team had a different interpretation.
“Obviously, I was frustrated,” Darvish said. “But I thought the conversations had ended.”
The Rangers, though, struck for two runs in the third against Jarrod Parker. Jim Adduci started the charge with a one-out single, and he scored as Leonys Martin followed with an RBI double to right field.
Craig Gentry then dropped a blooper into right field, and Martin slid across home ahead of Moss’ throw.
But the Rangers, who were 3 for 7 with runners in scoring position to finish the series 5 for 30, missed two chances with a runner at third in the fifth.
Jurickson Profar and Adduci were at second and third with one out when Gentry hit a check-swing tapper to the left of the mound. Parker jumped on it and caught Profar between third and home.
The next batter, Ian Kinsler, grounded sharply to third.
“We’re not making any excuses,” Washington said.
Darvish had pitched three consecutive scoreless innings when he walked Alberto Callaspo on four pitches to start the sixth. Barton followed with his second homer of the season, to right-center field.
That was it for Darvish, but Robbie Ross fared no better. He faced four batters, and all four had hits. The last was a three-run shot by Donaldson to vault Oakland into a 9-2 lead.
Ross’ effort brought to an end the Rangers’ streak of 31 consecutive games with five or fewer runs allowed. That is the longest streak in the AL since 1972.
It was going to end at some point, so that wasn’t the worst thing that happened to the Rangers. Neither was leaving town tied for first place.
The route they took to get there, though, was disconcerting.
“You could look at it any way you want. We lost,” Kinsler said. “Sooner or later we’re going to know who’s going to win the division, aren’t we?”