For the first seven innings Friday night, the Texas Rangers had played their best game of the season.
Dominant starting pitching? Heck yes.
Home runs? Sure, two of them.
Piling on offensively? That too.
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Then, the eighth inning arrived, and a series-opening victory against the Oakland A’s vanished.
Oakland scored seven runs in the eighth against three Rangers relievers, their three best relievers, and the Rangers watched a 5-0 lead with six outs to go turn into a 7-5 loss.
“There’s never a good loss, but this is one that stings a little bit,” manager Jeff Banister said. “That’s the type of offense we’re going to be. We played good defense. Colby [Lewis], I felt like, was in control of the game.
“We needed a clean inning there in the eighth, and we didn’t get it.”
The Rangers have lost four straight and seven of their past eight. This loss could be the worst of all, trumping the April 19 bullpen meltdown that saw Seattle erase a 10-5 deficit after six and win 11-10.
Until the eighth inning Friday, the Rangers had done just about everything right.
Lewis allowed two hits and two walks in six scoreless innings, registering a season-high eight strikeouts.
The worst hitting team in baseball collected nine hits, two of which were solo homers by Kyle Blanks and Prince Fielder.
Even the struggling Shin-Soo Choo (double), Rougned Odor (triple), Jake Smolinski (sacrifice fly) and Adrian Beltre (RBI single) contributed.
The maligned defense didn’t have any hiccups.
None of it mattered.
“Yes, it is tough leading 5-0 in the eighth and you lose the game,” catcher Robinson Chirinos said.
The Rangers got a scoreless inning from left-hander Alex Claudio in the seventh, but he gave way to Shawn Tolleson to start the eighth.
Mark Canha hit the first pitch for a home run, and three of the next four reached before Tolleson struck out Billy Butler for the second out.
At 26 pitches and with two left-handed hitters coming, Tolleson was lifted for Roman Mendez. But Mendez walked Keller High grad Max Muncy, the first walk of the rookie’s career, to fill the bases and allowed a two-run single to Josh Reddick to trim the Rangers’ lead to 5-4.
Closer Neftali Feliz was next to pitch. He jumped ahead of Brett Lawrie and appeared to strike him out on a check swing before first-base umpire Jordan Baker denied the appeal.
Instead of the inning being over, Lawrie worked a full count and doubled to right field two pitches later, scoring two and putting the A’s in a 6-5 lead that grew as Canha followed with a single.
“Those are the three best guys we have coming out of the bullpen,” Banister said. “We just didn’t put hitters away in that inning.”
As Banister said, no loss is a good loss. But with the Rangers reeling at 7-15 — that’s a .318 winning percentage — and having led 5-0 with six outs to go, the loss Friday left a mark.
“Extremely frustrating,” Tolleson said. “Colby pitched an awesome game.
“He was fun to watch out there tonight. Had a lot of good at-bats, a lot of big hits. Showed some power.
“We just didn’t do our job as a bullpen. At a time when our team really needs a win. The timing of this happening isn’t the best.”
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760