The second half of the 2013 season is under way, though over the weekend it didn’t seem as if every single member of the Texas Rangers was fully convinced that was the case.
Baltimore came to Rangers Ballpark and pulled off a three-game sweep of a team that is seeking trade help on the mound and at the plate for some extra fuel during a run to the postseason.
Jim Mora would be flabbergasted at the thought of the Rangers reaching the playoffs after watching them against the Orioles, especially Sunday.
Yet there was no sense of panic after the Orioles took advantage of several miscues, both in the field and on the bases, en route to a 4-2 victory that sent the Rangers to a seventh loss in their past eight games.
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“Very uncharacteristic baseball,” manager Ron Washington said. “Plays we usually take pride in making, we didn’t make. Sometimes the game finds you in that position, but we’re going to keep grinding.”
Martin Perez (3-3) was the tough-luck loser, charged with four earned runs in 6 1/3 innings. He deserved better but got in trouble early through little fault of his own.
The fielding issues started in the second inning, when Chris Davis lofted a fly ball to left field for a double. David Murphy, though, fought the sun and lost a ball that is normally caught on the play.
Matt Wieters followed with an RBI single, and J.J. Hardy collected an infield hit. It looked like Perez would get a quick two outs as Danny Valencia hit a grounder to shortstop, but Elvis Andrus booted the ball to load the bases.
No. 9 hitter Brian Roberts knocked in another run, but Perez escaped with the Orioles scoring only twice.
“The numbers don’t really reflect as well as he pitched,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “I thought he handled himself well. He kept us in the game.”
Baltimore added another run in the third with two outs as a Wieters grounder bounded away from third baseman Adrian Beltre for a double. Hardy also doubled for a 3-0 lead, which was stretched by another run in the fourth after a Roberts double, a sacrifice bunt and a Manny Machado single.
That was it for the Orioles’ offense, and the Rangers looked like they would take a big bite out of the their deficit in the fifth. But another late stop sign from third-base coach Gary Pettis proved costly.
Runners were at second and third with two outs when Ian Kinsler sent a single to right field. Andrus scored easily, but Murphy was out trying to get back to third after he stopped halfway to the plate.
Pettis flashed what appeared to be a late one-handed stop sign, and Murphy obeyed.
“Sometimes when you, as a team, are struggling to score runs and you make some calls that don’t go your way, sometimes you get a little tentative,” Washington said. “He wanted to send him but second-guessed himself.”
The Rangers got a solo homer from Adrian Beltre with one out in the ninth, and the tying run was at the plate twice. The Rangers, though, lamented missed chances throughout and saw well-hit balls end up in a Baltimore defender’s glove.
Baltimore, which has won five straight against the Rangers, allowed only seven runs in the three-game series, the first after the four-day All-Star break.
“We all expected to come out and be refreshed and have things fall into place, but it didn’t turn out that way,” Washington said.
Next up is New York, though the Yankees won’t be getting back Alex Rodriguez this week. The Rangers won two of three games in New York last month, but they were a hot team then.
They were cooled off considerably by the Orioles, but there’s no sense of panic. The good news from the weekend is that Oakland gained only one game in the American League West on the Rangers, who now trail by three.
“We left too many guys on base, and we’ve got to execute,” Andrus said. “I think that’s something everybody knows, and we’ve got to work on it. We’ve got to continue to play hard. There are too many games ahead. We cannot stop and think about the bad things. We’ve got to take the positive things from today and this series and keep rolling.”