Floored early, Rangers can’t deliver late knockout punch

After taking off the first 15 innings of baseball’s second half, the Texas Rangers finally showed some life late Saturday night.

Of course, it was far too late and way too little to overcome their lackluster start.

Baltimore scored seven runs before it made its seventh out, and the Rangers’ offense was stuck in neutral again much of the game against the Orioles in a 7-4 loss at Rangers Ballpark.

Ross Wolf, making his third start of the season, allowed all seven runs in two innings, and the Rangers couldn’t generate any meaningful offense until the seventh and eighth innings.

The Rangers have lost their first two games of the second half and six of their past seven overall. Four of those have been to the Orioles, who beat Wolf for a second time since July 11.

“It’s obvious that we need better pitching,” manager Ron Washington said. “It’s obvious that we need to start playing defense like we know how to play. It’s obvious we need to start getting hits with runners in scoring position.

“It’s obvious.”

Wolf didn’t give the Rangers much of a chance. Five of the first six Orioles reached in the first inning en route to a 2-0 lead that was stretched to 3-0 in the second.

Wolf wouldn’t record another out. Adam Jones started the fourth with a homer, and Chris Davis followed with a double that Leonys Martin should have caught in front of the center-field wall.

Matt Wieters took a walk, and J.J. Hardy bounced a single through the middle before Joseph Ortiz was summoned from the bullpen. The first two batters he faced delivered singles for a 7-0 lead.

Wolf (1-3) said his performance was the result of not being able to locate his fastball and nibbling more at the corners rather than challenging the Orioles, who scored only twice against him July 11.

“I feel like the ones I did execute it seems like found a hole every time,” Wolf said. “And they punished the mistakes.”

The Rangers turned to Wolf as yet another injury fill-in, this time for Nick Tepesch. Yu Darvish and Alexi Ogando are expected to come off the disabled list Monday and Tuesday, respectively, but the Rangers still will have inexperienced starters Wolf and Martin Perez in their beleaguered rotation.

“It hasn’t been good,” Washington said. “We’ve just got to grind through. Every day we send a guy out there, and we feel like he’s going to keep us in the ballgame.”

The Rangers’ hitters, meanwhile, couldn’t get a firm grasp on Miguel Gonzalez until Ian Kinsler drove in David Murphy with a sacrifice fly in the seventh. Jurickson Profar, A.J. Pierzynski and Murphy had two hits apiece against Gonzalez, but five of the six came with the bases empty.

After his single to start the second, Pierzynski froze on an Elvis Andrus blooper that fell in front of Jones, and the center fielder threw to second base to retire Pierzynski on a force play.

Pierzynski and Murphy added a third hit apiece off Tommy Hunter as the Rangers scored three times in the eighth. They collected 14 hits, including two with a runner in scoring position, and brought the tying run to the plate with two outs in the ninth.

Though Pierzynski bounced out to end it, the strong finish might have knocked off some rust that Murphy said was still lingering from the four-day All-Star break.

“It was good to see the offense chip away late in the game and put up some runs and put up some great at-bats,” he said. “Hopefully, we can take that right into the game [Sunday].”

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