Neal Cotts knows that it’s rarely a good thing when the media convenes at a reliever’s locker after a loss, and the Texas Rangers reliever stood and took every question Wednesday about his second eighth-inning lapse in five days.
“Everyone played well and everyone pitched well, except the guy you’re talking to,” Cotts said.
The towering three-run homer David Ortiz wrapped around Pesky’s Pole off Cotts, left-hander on left-hander, is what buried the Rangers in the finale of their three-game series at Fenway Park.
But a series of mistakes and missed opportunities, some glaring, some not, helped dig the hole.
Ortiz’s blast lifted Boston to a 4-2 victory and sent the Rangers back to Texas with a 2-4 record on their road trip. The Rangers, playing with little margin for error, left knowing they have work to do.
“The little details, that’s for sure what we’re going to keep working on,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “Everyone knows what they have to do to get better. It’s early, and now’s a good time to learn and keep fighting and keep getting better.”
Andrus missed a chance in the eighth on a potential double play grounder, though Dustin Pedroia’s hot shot took a strange hop on Andrus and limited him to getting only a forceout.
The inning had started with the third walk of the game to No. 9 hitter Jackie Bradley Jr. Pinch hitter A.J. Pierzynski followed with a blooper that fell just inside the right-field line and spoiled what had been a terrific relief effort by Alexi Ogando, who retired the first five he faced and had struck out four straight hitters.
After the force play on Pedroia, Ortiz sent his second homer of the season into the right-field corner on a pitch Cotts had wanted to get inside more. Ortiz had been 0 for 5 with five strikeouts in his career against Cotts.
“It’s not a good place to throw a fastball, down and in, to him,” Cotts said.
Catcher Robinson Chirinos and first baseman Mitch Moreland thought the ball was foul, but video replay upheld the initial fair call. Had Andrus been able to start a double play, though, Ogando would have stayed in the game to walk Ortiz and face Mike Napoli.
“Every time a ground ball is hit to me, I want to start a double play,” Andrus said.
But the Rangers’ miscues started early. After Shin-Soo Choo started the game with a double off Jake Peavy, he failed to go to third on an Andrus grounder to first base. Choo said that he didn’t want to risk making an out at third with the middle of the order coming up.
Had he advanced to third, though, he likely would have scored as Prince Fielder followed with a grounder to second.
“I saw the first baseman playing shallow,” Choo said. “It was not a perfect read. I didn’t get a good jump. I didn’t want to get thrown out with the No. 3 and No. 4 batters coming up.”
Robbie Ross allowed only one unearned run in 5 1/3 innings in his second career start, but he walked six and his throwing error led to the lone tally against him.
Ross started the third by getting David Ross to pop out, but he issued a four-pitch walk to Bradley Jr. and also walked Jonny Gomes.
Pedroia followed with a swinging bunt to the left of the mound, and Ross made an ill-advised and wild throw to first that scooted down the right-field line. Bradley Jr. scored, and Ross needed a double play grounder from Oritz to limit the damage.
Moreland, though, struck for his third career homer against Peavy to start the seventh, a rope into the Rangers’ bullpen in right field. Andrus opened the eighth with a double to right, went to third on a groundout by Fielder, and dived home safely on Alex Rios’ sacrifice fly to shallow center.
The Rangers were up 2-1, but too many subtle miscues had kept them from a larger lead. Each one caught up to them when Ortiz took Cotts deep in the eighth.
Afterward, Cotts took one for the team.
“It’s real disheartening,” he said. “We fought our butts off to get the lead with a tremendous run in the eighth. And then to come out there and blow it for the team, that’s what sucks.”