It has been nearly two weeks since the Texas Rangers have seen consecutive quality starts from their depleted staff.
The 25-year old rookie Miles Mikolas flirted with it Saturday night against the Los Angeles Angels. But like most nights lately for the Rangers, it wasn’t a matter of if things would go off the tracks, but when.
On Saturday, it was the sixth inning.
The Angels busted open a tight game with a four-run sixth to beat the Rangers 5-2 in front of 37,253 at Globe Life Park.
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Texas has lost 21 of its last 24 and seven in a row. The Rangers will try to snap the skid at 2 p.m. Sunday in the series finale and last game before the All-Star break. Rangers right-hander Scott Baker (0-2) will start against lefty Tyler Skaggs (4-5).
The last time Rangers pitchers put together consecutive quality starts was June 27-29, when Nick Tepesch, Yu Darvish and Colby Lewis put up three solid outings in a row.
In his third career start, Mikolas (0-2) appeared on track to follow Tepesch’s solid outing on Friday. He held the Angels to four hits through five innings before being undone in the sixth. He was replaced by Jason Frasor after allowing five runs (four earned) on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Texas led 2-0 after scoring twice in the second inning behind doubles from Carlos Pena and Rougned Odor. It was Odor’s first RBI since June 17, and Shin-Soo Choo made it 2-0 with an RBI on a groundout.
Rangers rookie outfielder Jake Smolinski made two diving catches in the first three innings, the second of which prevented a potential two-run double from Albert Pujols in the third.
Instead, the Angels settled for a sacrifice fly to cut the Rangers’ lead to 2-1. Hank Conger, who reached on Carlos Pena’s error at first, scored on Pujols’ sac fly. After running to his left, Smolinski laid out to make the catch about a foot off the grass. He robbed Josh Hamilton of a leadoff single after closing fast on a looping liner in shallow left field.
Mikolas, for his part, took advantage of the defense early and took a 2-1 lead into the sixth inning.
But just as he did July 2 in his start at Baltimore, Mikolas struggled to get through the sixth unscathed. The Angels touched him for four runs on five hits, including a two-run double down the right-field line from Conger that put Texas in a 5-2 hole.
“The defense made some great plays behind me tonight,” Mikolas said. “And I’ve got to do a better job of holding that lead for them”
Rangers manager Ron Washington said Mikolas needs to learn how to minimize the damage when he runs into trouble.
“Some pretty good hitters got him there in the sixth inning to get them going,” Washington said. “You also have to stay out there and figure out a way to make pitches to minimize the damage.
“I’m not saying that kid can’t give up runs, but you minimize the damage.”
The Rangers’ offense had chances to add to the early lead, but a leadoff double by Alex Rios in the third was wasted when Adrian Beltre and Leonys Martin both grounded out before a Carlos Pena fly out ended the threat and stranded Rios at third.
Texas had runners at second and third with no outs in the first inning, but Angels starter Jered Weaver (10-6) struck out Beltre and Martin to end the threat.
“We had seven chances to drive in a run and we didn’t do it besides the two we got,” Washington said. “We just haven’t mustered any offense the past two days.”
By the middle innings, Weaver had found his rhythm and retired 10 of 11 batters between the third and sixth innings. He held Texas to two runs on four hits in seven innings and retired 15 of the last 18 batters he faced, including the last seven in a row.
Relievers Mike Morin and Joe Smith combined to retire the last six Rangers batters. Texas had just two baserunners in the last six innings.