Ron Washington needed five words to sum up the Texas Rangers game on Saturday.
“Just had a bad day,” he said.
Bad days are going to happen over the course of the season, and Washington felt this was his team’s “first real bad one” of the season.
The Rangers couldn’t figure out a rookie pitcher making his third big-league start, struggled when they had runners in scoring position and couldn’t overcome a costly two-out, two-run homer given up by Derek Holland as the Minnesota Twins pulled away for a 7-2 victory at Target Field.
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The Rangers lost for just the third time in their last 11 games, and were almost the first team shut out by the Twins until Mitch Moreland’s two-out, two-run double in the ninth.
“Today was one of those days that didn’t work out for us,” second baseman Ian Kinsler said. “But I thought Derek pitched well, and that’s what we expect out of him.”
Holland allowed only an unearned run the first five innings before running into trouble in the sixth when Brian Dozier reached with a one-out single.
Holland struck out Joe Mauer in the next at-bat, but then left a slider in the zone that Josh Willingham sent into the left-field seats to extend the Twins’ lead to 3-0.
Holland threw three straight balls to Willingham to start the at-bat, but didn’t want to issue a free pass. So he came back with a slider for a called strike and then threw another slider that Willingham turned on.
“I felt I had a good advantage against him and I had been cruising ’til then,” said Holland, who had already retired Willingham twice.
“You’ve got to tip your hat to him. I made my pitch, he made his swing and it matched up right there with him.”
Said Washington: “I don’t want him to pitch around Willingham. He just made a bad pitch.”
The Twins scored another run in the seventh off Holland, and then blew it open with three runs in the eighth off Michael Kirkman.
The Rangers had their chances earlier in the game against Twins lefty Pedro Hernandez.
Craig Gentry reached on a one-out single in the first, but was caught stealing during the next at-bat. Nelson Cruz led off the second with a single to left-center field, but tried to stretch it into a double and was thrown out.
Texas’ best chance came in the third inning.
Leury Garcia had a one-out single, followed by a ground-rule double by Kinsler. Had Kinsler’s double not hopped the fence, Garcia could have scored easily.
Still, the Rangers had runners at second and third with one out, but Gentry lined out to short and Adrian Beltre flew out.
“We just didn’t swing the bats like we were capable of today and you’ve got to give [Hernandez] credit,” Washington said. “He kept us off-balance. He went five innings and shut us out.”
The Rangers didn’t fare much better against the Twins’ bullpen, scoring their first runs in the ninth when the game was out of reach.
Washington downplayed any notion that the overnight flight Wednesday into Thursday might have caught up with them, or that having regulars Elvis Andrus and Lance Berkman off were factors.
“No excuses,” Washington said. “The Minnesota Twins beat us. That was it.”
The players in the clubhouse seemed to turn the page rather quickly, too. Sure, they would have liked to win, but their spirits were lifted when reliever Tanner Scheppers left with one less pant leg than he came in with.
Scheppers now knows the price for tardiness, and was hopeful of catching a cab to avoid a public walk of shame.