Joe Saunders offered a suggestion that might cure the Texas Rangers’ rash of injuries.
“We need to take the needle out of the voodoo doll,” he said. “This is unbelievable. It’s mind-boggling, it’s crazy. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
It’s been that kind of season for the Rangers, and Saunders had the unenviable task of trying to pitch the team to victory on the day it discovered Mitch Moreland would be lost for at least three months.
Saunders kept it close and kept Texas in it, but ultimately found himself on the losing end. The Cleveland Indians left Globe Life Park with a 3-2 victory Sunday, sending the Rangers to their sixth loss in the past nine games.
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It’s been a difficult road to date with a seemingly endless list of injuries that will continue with Moreland sidelined by upcoming ankle surgery. Things got even worse when rookie second baseman Rougned Odor left in the fifth inning with a right shoulder sprain. He is day to day.
“It is tough, but the only way you can see through it is to keep going,” outfielder Alex Rios said. “If you quit, it’s going to be a long season, so might as well keep playing hard and do what you have to do to enjoy the season.”
Rios staked the team to a 1-0 lead in the fourth when he raced home on a wild pitch, but it didn’t stand long.
In the fifth, the Indians loaded the bases with one out against Saunders and Asdrubal Cabrera tied it at 1-1 with an RBI single to center. Saunders limited the damage to that, though, getting Michael Brantley to bounce into a fielder’s choice and Jason Kipnis to ground out.
Saunders ran into more trouble in the sixth and was pulled with two runners on and one out. Shawn Tolleson entered to face Ryan Raburn, who sent the first pitch he saw into center field for an RBI single to give the Indians a 2-1 lead.
“We expected him to swing first pitch there, so the game plan was to throw a cutter away,” Tolleson said. “I threw it away, but it was up and he had a good approach to go up the middle. I just didn’t quite execute it like I wanted to.”
Tolleson allowed the other inherited runner to score on a sacrifice fly by David Murphy. Saunders took the loss, allowing three runs (two earned) on seven hits with four walks and no strikeouts.
“I felt good early on and got shakier with my command as the game went on,” said Saunders, who is winless in his past seven starts against Cleveland.
“I tried to hang in there as best I could.”
The Rangers had a chance to even it in their half. Rios’ one-out RBI triple made it a 3-2 game, but he was left on third when Chris Gimenez and Leonys Martin each grounded out.
Texas has preached all season the importance of delivering in clutch situations, and it’s become even more important with a depleted offense.
“You need to pick them up all the time, whether you’re hurting or not,” manager Ron Washington said. “It was just a situation where you always want the execution to happen, it just didn’t happen.”
After the sixth, the Rangers didn’t have a base runner reach second base, as Indians relievers Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen shut the door.
Injuries, though, were the storyline again for the Rangers. It’s been a difficult season to piece together so far, but they’re only one game under .500 and in the wild-card mix for now.
“I do believe this personnel, if we can get consistent, can win us some ballgames,” Washington said. “So we’ll just keep preparing and keep battling. We played a very competitive game today and they beat us. We’ve been playing competitive and that’s what we’ve got to keep doing.”