For the past week, the Texas Rangers’ starting pitching has shown signs of coming out of a summer-long funk.
Four quality starts, not including Nick Martinez’s solid, five-plus scoreless innings in his return to the rotation, and Yu Darvish’s rain-shortened start on Wednesday, have kept Texas in most games, even if its record hasn’t improved.
Miles Mikolas started the string with his first win for the Rangers after holding the Yankees to two runs in 7 1/3 innings on July 21.
On Sunday night against the Oakland A’s, Mikolas was looking to be the Rangers’ first pitcher to earn wins in consecutive starts since Nick Tepesch in late May.
That went out the window early as the A’s scored five runs in the second inning and tagged Mikolas for eight runs (seven earned) in a 9-3 win before an announced crowd of 38,915 at Globe Life Park.
Texas (41-64) dropped to 4-19 in July.
First-place Oakland (65-39), which has the best record in baseball, jumped on Mikolas after two one-out walks and Mikolas’ throwing error to second on a comebacker to the mound.
Instead of an inning-ending double play, the first of five runs scored. A bloop single to center scored another run, and doubles from John Jaso and Yoenis Cespedes completed the scoring.
“If he had hit his mark, it would have been an out,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “In hindsight, I wish he would have taken the out at first. Everything had to work out perfect right there. He just got a little erratic in the second inning and we ended up paying for it.”
Mikolas (1-3) said his command suffered because he was falling off pitches on his follow through. The same mechanical issue is what caused his errant throw to second, which was called for by catcher Chris Gimenez.
“I think we had him at second,” Mikolas said. “I fell away from that throw as well and it kind of two-seamed a little bit. It was a poor throw, but those kind of mistakes happen.”
He recovered, however, over the next two innings but was in trouble again in the fifth. After a lead-off single, he recorded two outs before Eric Sogard’s double to right made it 6-2.
Ryan Feierabend replaced Mikolas after his fourth walk and Jaso’s double to the gap in right-center made it 8-2. Rangers pitching had only allowed four walks combined in the previous four games.
The last time a Rangers pitcher had consecutive quality starts was Colby Lewis on June 29 and July 5.
“That’s what the major leagues are about, being consistent,” Washington said. “We haven’t been able to do that. I think you have to give him credit. He was almost gone in the second inning and he almost got five [innings]. He did fight back and straighten out the ship a little bit.”
Adam Rosales’ first homer in the big leagues since August 2013 cut the deficit to 5-2 in the second, but Oakland starter Scott Kazmir (12-3) was able to escape jams in the third and fifth innings. Texas had runners at second and third in the third inning and the bases loaded in the fifth, but twice J.P. Arencibia was retired to end the inning.
Adrian Beltre’s 15th homer in the eighth pulled the Rangers to within 9-3.
“We had some opportunities and the opportunities happened in the middle of our lineup,” Washington said. “We just didn’t deliver. That’s been the theme, a little bit. We just have to start driving in some runs. It doesn’t matter where it comes from.”
Arencibia, who has led the club with seven RBIs since returning from the minors on July 18, was replaced by pinch hitter Jim Adduci after Beltre’s homer.
“What you see is what he is,” Washington said of Arencibia, who has 28 strikeouts in 30 games in 2014. “I don’t think he can change, because then he wouldn’t be J.P. Arencibia. We have to live with it.”