Tuesday started out poorly for the Texas Rangers, who hours before first pitch announced that right-hander Yu Darvish wouldn’t make his scheduled start because of neck stiffness.
So, Scott Baker, who gave up six runs Friday and lost his spot in the rotation after one start, was summoned on three days’ rest to save the Rangers. He did his job over six innings, and Aaron Poreda and Alexi Ogando did theirs the next two.
Then the ninth inning happened, when the Rangers saw their sure thing in the bullpen blow his first save of the season, and then saw a bizarre sequence over the final three batters decide the game.
A disputed ruling by third base umpire Mike DiMuro kept Minnesota alive, and Soria’s error on a 30-foot chopper delivered the winning run as the Twins scored twice in the ninth to stun the Rangers 4-3.
The Rangers’ first loss in four games also included losing a three-run homer from Donnie Murphy on a leaping catch by center fielder Aaron Hicks and a failure to deliver an insurance run after Alex Rios started the Rangers’ ninth with a triple.
“It’s a tough loss, swallowing it,” manager Ron Washington said. “It’s a game on the schedule we didn’t win. We were right where we wanted to be, and we didn’t put it away. That’s all I can say.”
Closer Joakim Soria entered in the ninth with a 3-2 lead after Chris Gimenez, Leonys Martin and Murphy each missed a chance to plate Rios. Soria retired Trevor Plouffe and caught a break when Oswaldo Arcia’s drive to right-center clanged high off the wall rather than sailing out for a homer.
Josh Willingham chased a breaking ball out of the zone for the second out, but Eduardo Nunez laced a single to right to bring home Arcia with the tying run and went to second on Rios’ wide throw home.
Kurt Suzuki was next, and he rolled a grounder to third baseman Adrian Beltre, who attempted to tag Nunez as he came to third. Nunez, though, had gone well out of the base line behind Beltre and then circled back safely ahead of Beltre’s tag.
DiMuro ruled that Nunez had the right to elude Beltre, who was blocking Nunez’s lane before he had fielded the ball.
“I just saw the replay. I caught the ball. He was coming at me. When he saw me, he stopped and went around me,” Beltre said. “Somehow, now, you’ve got a new rule that you can go out to left field and come back to third. I wish I had known that.”
Washington didn’t discuss DiMuro’s explanation, saying only that Beltre should have taken the sure out at first base. Instead, the inning was extended for Eduardo Escobar, who was intentionally walked after Suzuki took second.
That left it to infielder Danny Santana, who hit a chopper to the left of the mound that Soria got to in plenty of time, only to bobble the ball as he tried to throw to first.
“I dropped it,” Soria said. “I thought I got to the ball really fast, but the spin of the ball got me and I missed it.”
The two-out collapse spoiled terrific work by Baker. He allowed two runs in six innings as the emergency starter for Darvish, who is day-to-day after an MRI was “unremarkable,” which is both good and remarkable considering the Rangers’ miserable luck with injuries this season.
The Rangers backed Baker with a two-run second, though more damage could have been done. Murphy’s drive to center was headed for a three-run homer, but Hicks’ leaping catch turned it into a sacrifice fly.
Arcia started the Twins’ second with a homer to right-center, and Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer had back-to-back two-out doubles in the third to tie it.
Those were the only three hits allowed by Baker, who left after six innings with the lead courtesy of a Gimenez two-out single in the sixth that scored Mitch Moreland.
But then the ninth happened, and all the good work the Rangers had done vanished in a blown save, a blown call and a blown grounder.
“That’s just baseball,” Soria said.
The good news, though, is that the Rangers don’t believe Darvish’s neck stiffness is as severe as it was in spring training, when he was forced out of his Opening Day start and onto the disabled list.
Darvish woke up Tuesday with discomfort after sleeping awkwardly, similar to how the same issue developed in March. His next start is to be determined, but it should be within the next seven days instead of the next month or next season.
“We may slide his start back or skip a start and get him ready to go,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “Obviously, if it’s anything [more severe], we’ll deal with it when it comes.”
That was the good news on a Tuesday that started poorly for the Rangers. It ended poorly, too.