Their defense in the first two innings was as bad as it has been all season. Their starting pitcher allowed four runs with two outs. Their offense, good in the early going, had only three batters reach over a five-inning span.
The sum of those parts was the Texas Rangers’ third consecutive loss, and the fifth in six games to start the month.
Instead of waiting until the end of September to fade out of the race for the American League West title, as they did last season, the Rangers appear to be getting that out of the way in the first week this year.
Three errors in the first two innings led to four unearned runs, and Derek Holland allowed four more runs with two outs as the Rangers went out meekly to the Los Angeles Angels 8-3.
The Rangers are 1-4 so far on their six-game road trip and have fallen 11/2 games behind Oakland in the AL West. They will try to avoid a three-game sweep to the Angels today with rookie right-hander Nick Tepesch making his first start since early July.
Despite the lull to start September after a 20-win August, the Rangers are atop the wild-card race with 21 games remaining.
“I’m not pushing any panic button,” said manager Ron Washington. “We just haven’t played total baseball the way we can. We’re only a game and a half out. We’re not going any place.”
Holland allowed eight runs (four earned) in 52/3 innings. He committed one of the three errors, to the first batter he faced, and the usually sure-handed Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus booted grounders.
“It got off bad,” said Washington. “The pitcher makes one, the third baseman makes one, and the shortstop makes one.”
But the Rangers actually led 1-0 in the first after an Angels fielding miscue helped produce an unearned run. Third baseman Luis Jimenez booted a potential double play grounder from Ian Kinsler and threw wildly to second base.
Andrus went to third and scored easily as Beltre followed with a double.
But the lead was gone in a flash. Holland threw away a tapper by J.B. Shuck to start the Angels’ first, and he went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Erick Aybar. Mike Trout followed with a grounder to Beltre, who looked home but bobbled the ball for his 13th error of the season.
Mark Trumbo hit the next pitch onto the rock pile in center field for a two-run homer.
The Rangers came back with a run in the second, as Jurickson Profar singled with two outs to score Leonys Martin. But another error to start the bottom half, the 13th this season on Andrus, led to another unearned run and a 4-2 Angels lead.
The run the Angels scored in the third was on Holland, who allowed a leadoff double to Aybar but got the next two hitters. But he walked Josh Hamilton, and Chris Iannetta followed with an RBI single to left.
“I didn’t pitch well,” said Holland. “I’m very disappointed with the way I pitched. I dissappointed a lot of people. I’m better than the way I’ve pitched the past few games. I’m very frustrated with my performance.”
Holland worked scoreless innings in the fourth and fifth and was an out away from pitching out of trouble in the sixth. No. 9 hitter Grant Green, though, doubled home two runs despite initially being down 0-2 in the count, and Shuck brought in Green for an 8-2 lead to end Holland’s night.
The Rangers’ offense went flat after the first two innings against Garrett Richards. They had four hits in the first and second, but only two over the next five.
“There’s not going to be an easy game for us the rest of the way out,” Holland said. “We’re not going to worry about it. We know. We just have to keep grinding it out.”