They snapped a 15-inning scoreless drought, and put together a pair of late rallies on Tuesday night.
Too little, too late for the Texas Rangers, though, to overcome Martin Perez’s roughest outing in more than six weeks. The September struggles continued in a 5-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Rangers have lost seven of nine in September, and remain two games back of the A’s in the American League West with 18 games left.
“It’s not hard to keep the morale up,” manager Ron Washington said. “What we have to keep doing is to keep grinding and pretty soon things will turn. We just have to keep fighting.”
Said A.J. Pierzynski: “We’re running into some teams that are playing pretty well right now. No one said this was going to be easy. No one said this was going to be a walk. We have to fight.”
Things were on the verge of turning late Tuesday as the Rangers were rallying from a four-run deficit.
They scored a run in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI double by Ian Kinsler to snap a 15-inning scoreless drought, and brought the go-ahead run to the plate in the eighth and ninth.
The Rangers pulled to within 4-2 in the eighth on a two-out RBI single by Adrian Beltre to score Alex Rios, who doubled in the previous at-bat.
Pierzynski followed with a double to right off lefty Tony Watson to put runners at second and third, and bring the go-ahead run, Jeff Baker, to the plate.
Baker went down 0-2 in the count, fouled off three straight pitches and then struck out on a high fastball by Watson to end the threat.
“That guy [Baker] may be tough on left-handers, but Tony isn’t just any left-hander,” Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez said.
Pittsburgh extended its lead to 5-2 in the ninth on Andrew McCutchen’s third RBI hit. Texas, though, didn’t go away easily with a two-out rally.
Leonys Martin reached on an infield single and scored on a single by Kinsler. Elvis Andrus then singled through the left-side to bring up Rios, who had an RBI single to left.
With the tying run at third and the winning run at first, however, Beltre struck out on three pitches against Pirates closer Mark Melancon.
“Just kept throwing him fastballs,” Melancon said. “I don’t know if he was sitting on a breaking ball [for strike three].”
Beltre is now 2 for his last 24 with runners in scoring position, including his RBI single in the eighth.
“We know what his track record is, we know what he’s capable of doing,” Washington said of Beltre, the team’s RBI leader. “Right now, the game is finding him and he’s challenged. He’s the kind of guy who always rises to a challenge, so I’m looking forward to him coming back. I’m not concerned about Beltre.
“We’re going to keep grinding and we know each and every one of those guys in that lineup is capable.”
Perez has shown to be capable himself, but lost for the first time since July 21. The Pirates scored a run off him in the third when Sanchez led off with a double, and scored on an infield single by McCutchen.
More trouble found Perez in the fifth inning. He got two quick outs before giving up a double to Jordy Mercer, who went to third on a fielding error by left fielder Craig Gentry.
McCutchen then ripped an RBI single to left and, two batters later, Gaby Sanchez had an RBI single to left. A wild pitch by Perez allowed the Pirates to score another run, too, as they took a 4-0 lead.
Perez said his fifth inning struggles were related to leaving his pitches up in the zone, particularly his fastball. But he said he is not frustrated by his outing.
“You have to learn something when you lose,” Perez said. “I trust what I have and I’ll be ready for my next start. Nobody’s perfect and you’re not going to win everyday. We needed a win, but we didn’t get it so you have to prepare for tomorrow and see if you get it.”
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760