Seven straight losses, all without so much as a lead and most without a gutty performance by a starting pitcher, have all but sunk the Texas Rangers in the American League West.
It’s nothing short of a miracle that they are left with any playoff hopes at all, yet there they are still clinging to a wild-card spot.
But the latest defeat didn’t do much for their weakened grip on October.
Matt Garza allowed six runs in 41/3 innings Monday night while facing his former team, and the Rangers’ offense sputtered again in a 6-2 loss to Tampa Bay.
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The win vaulted the Rays one game ahead of the Rangers in the wild-card standings, but the Rangers kept a half-game lead over Cleveland for the final spot as the Indians lost at Kansas City.
“It’s pretty tough right now,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “It looks like nothing is going our way right now. I’m kind of getting tired, actually, of talking about the same thing.”
Here’s something new Andrus can discuss: The Rangers haven’t held a lead in 63 innings and haven’t homered in seven straight games for the first time since 1990.
Garza’s inability to produce a shutdown inning was the Rangers’ biggest problem, said manager Ron Washington.
Rookie of the Year candidate Wil Myers started the second inning with a home run, and the Rangers escaped the third down only 1-0 as Leonys Martin cut down Yunel Escobar at home for the second out.
The Rangers capitalized as A.J. Pierzynski singled home Alex Rios with two outs in the fourth for a 1-1 tie. The hit saved the inning for the Rangers after Ian Kinsler made one of his two outs on the bases.
Kinsler opened with a double and went to third on a bunt by Andrus. He then tried to distract Rays starter Alex Cobb, who was working slowly from the full windup, by taking off for home as Rios batted.
Kinsler, though, stopped, and Rios hit a grounder to third that turned into Kinsler getting tagged out in a rundown.
The Rays quickly countered the Rangers’ run with one of their own on a sacrifice fly by Desmond Jennings, but the Rangers pulled even again in the fifth as Mitch Moreland doubled with one out and Kinsler doubled him home two batters later. The inning ended, though, as Kinsler was picked off trying to steal third.
Washington said the fourth-inning out on the bases by Kinsler likely didn’t cost the Rangers a run. If he had kept running on Rios’ grounder, the Rays’ play would have been to first base. Washington was OK with Kinsler getting caught in the fifth.
“That’s the way we play,” Washington said.
But Garza again failed to shut down the Rays in their next turn, when they put the game out of reach. Garza retired Escobar to start the inning, but David DeJesus followed with a double and Zobrist singled.
James Loney sent a jam-shot down the third-base line to make it 3-2. Evan Longoria followed with a liner to center, making it 4-2 and ending Garza’s night. Myers was next and smoked a two-run double to center off Jason Frasor.
“My job is to put a zero up when we score, and that’s what I’ve got to start doing,” said Garza, who is 3-5 with a 4.94 ERA in 11 starts with the Rangers. “What’s galling is letting down my team. My job is to get us to October.”
That might seem like a pipe dream after seven straight losses, but it’s a reality. The players know it, and to that end held a players-only meeting before the game to help clear the air.
Andrus said that anyone who had anything to say was free to speak his mind, and spirits appeared to be high when the doors opened. But the Rangers seemed flat from the start, when Cobb retired the first nine in order, and over the final four innings as they collected only two hits.
“We have the right mentality,” Andrus said. “It’s something different every night. We need to scratch that and just go out and play hard. We know we’re still in the race. We believe we have the right talent and the right team to compete and make it.
“We need to go out there and get a win, and everything will change.”