SURPRISE, Ariz. A curious scene that unfolded at the pitcher’s mound Tuesday night temporarily served as a distraction for what really ailed Texas Rangers right-hander Alexi Ogando.
He didn’t have a blister on his pitching hand, even though he left the mound with trainer Kevin Harmon. But he had a third-inning mind melt that led to his undoing.
Ogando allowed five unearned runs in the second inning, all coming after a two-out error on third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff extended the inning. The Chicago Cubs followed with five straight hits, including back-to-back homers by Mike Olt and Javier Baez, but the Rangers rallied for a 7-6 victory in 10 innings.
Ogando, believed to have a spot in the Rangers’ rotation to open the season, said that he lost his focus after Kouzmanoff couldn’t handle a spinning chopper by Ryan Kalish and that it wasn’t the first time a bad break has knocked him off course.
Even though it was meaningless spring game, his lapse nearly knocked the Rangers out of the game.
“I felt like after that error I lost my focus,” Ogando said. “Sometimes things like that happen. I just need to refocus and try to make the next pitch. It just got away from me.”
In his last start, the Rangers couldn’t make a play on a two-out blooper that fell in for a two-run double. Ogando surrendered a three-run homer two batters later.
“Errors are part of the game,” manager Ron Washington said. “I’m not saying he’s using that as an excuse. The game got away from him.”
Ogando had retired seven straight batters after the Cubs loaded the bases with one out in the first but didn’t score. He was pleased with his slider, but couldn’t control a fastball that he said was cutting out of the strike zone.
Ogando was at 78 pitches on a night when his pitch count was 80 as he went to the mound to start the fourth. Bullpen coach Andy Hawkins and manager Ron Washington escorted Harmon to the mound, and after a lengthy discussion, Ogando and Harmon walked off the field in a scene that ordinarily means a pitcher is injured.
Washington said that no one had told Ogando that he wasn’t going to pitch the fourth inning. They also thought he might have developed a blister.
“No, I’m fine,” Ogando said. “They saw me rub my fingers, and they thought maybe something was wrong with my fingers.”
Neftali Feliz followed Ogando and surrendered a run as he continued his bid to be the club’s closer. He topped out at 95 mph, but allowed two singles before Olt, the former Rangers prospect, delivered a sacrifice fly.
Feliz’s main competitor, Joakim Soria, followed later with a 1-2-3 ninth inning. He hasn’t allowed a run in six Catcus League appearances.
Michael Choice provided the game-winning hit when he legged out a two-out bases-loaded chopper to third. Kouzmanoff atoned for his error by going 3 for 4 with two doubles, and outfielder Jim Adduci tied the game with a two-run homer in the eighth.