Usually after a defeat — and there has been no shortage of practice this month — manager Ron Washington can find a silver lining with the Texas Rangers.
Maybe the offense has put together a good inning late. Or maybe the bullpen has been solid. Or maybe the starting pitcher kept the team in the game.
Such was the case again Friday night as the Rangers cut a seven-run deficit to one with a mighty eighth-inning rally that ended only when the third-base umpire blew a call.
But the end result was the same, another loss that moved the Rangers closer to the possibility that their season will end without them qualifying for the postseason.
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Derek Holland allowed six runs in three-plus innings, and the Rangers’ furious rally from seven down fell a run short in a 9-8 loss to division-leading Oakland.
The Rangers are 2-9 in September and 4 1/2 games behind the A’s in the American League West with 16 to play. Tampa Bay has moved within one game of the Rangers’ lead for the first wild-card spot, and Cleveland is only a game and a half out of the second spot.
“We’re not out,” Washington said. “We’ve still got fight in us. We never quit. We just didn’t win the game.”
Lousy starting pitching and a punchless offense so far this month have conspired to put the Rangers’ playoff hopes in dire trouble. The rotation has posted a 5.94 ERA and a whopping one win this month, and the offense had gone 12 games without scoring more than five runs.
That was the club’s longest streak since 1990.
Oakland exposed both facets early Friday. The first two hitters reached against Holland, and Yoenis Cespedes followed two batters later with a three-run homer on an 0-2 pitch.
Josh Donaldson started the third with a homer, and Holland had to pull an escape act after two more A’s hits. Oakland opened the fourth with consecutive singles, and Holland was removed in favor of Nick Tepesch.
The rookie, tentatively scheduled to pitch Tuesday, allowed both inherited runners to score and then failed to retire any of the four hitters he faced in the fifth. He walked No. 9 hitter Kurt Suzuki to force in a run, and Ross Wolf allowed a sacrifice fly to the next batter, Coco Crisp, and a solo homer to Brandon Moss in the sixth for a 9-2 lead.
Holland has allowed 14 runs (10 earned) in his past two starts and hasn’t won since Aug. 4 at Oakland.
“He wasn’t effective. It was that simple,” Washington said. “He was getting the ball up, and they didn’t miss very many pitches.”
The Moss homer was the A’s sixth consecutive run after the Rangers had scored twice in the first against Dan Straily, who walked Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus to start the inning and allowed an RBI single to Adrian Beltre and a sacrifice fly to A.J. Pierzynski.
But the Beltre single stood as the Rangers’ only hit until the sixth, when Donaldson couldn’t handle a Beltre dribbler that was scored an infield hit.
The Rangers loaded the bases in that inning but couldn’t score, and they loaded the bases again in the eighth. They were down to their final out of that inning after Jurickson Profar struck out looking on a borderline pitch.
Leonys Martin followed with a one-hopper that bounded off Moss’ glove at first base and brought in Beltre, who had walked to start the inning. Kinsler then walked to push home Pierzynski, who had also walked, and Andrus followed with a sharp single to right field that scored two.
Suddenly, the Rangers were down 9-6. After a wild pitch, Alex Rios singled both Kinsler and Andrus home to make it 9-8.
Beltre was next, and he laced a single to left field. Rios headed to third and slid in safely ahead of Donaldson’s throw, but umpire Andy Fletcher blew the call to end the rally and ejected Rios.
“I was correct. I believe I was safe,” Rios said. “At that particular part of the game, there are a lot of emotions. We’re making a comeback and we’re fired up, and to have that rally killed like that is disappointing.”
Said Washington: “We were still fighting in the ballgame. Yes, I’m upset, but you can’t lose focus on what needs to get done.”
After a scoreless ninth by Jason Frasor and Tanner Scheppers, which was interrupted by the ejection of right-hander Matt Garza from the Rangers’ bench, the Rangers were able to get the tying to second with two outs in the ninth on a double by pinch hitter Robinson Chirinos.
Profar, though, again struck out looking to end the game.