Yovani Gallardo returned to the mound Friday night, and for nearly three weeks that has meant he would pitch well but the Texas Rangers would play losing baseball behind him.
In his previous three starts, either the offense provided him with very little support, the defense got sloppy, the bullpen wouldn’t pick him up or all three would conspire to wreck his outing.
The trend continued at Tropicana Field.
An error on Elvis Andrus to start the sixth inning opened the door for four Tampa Bay runs — three of which came when Alex Claudio surrendered a homer the pitch after he replaced Gallardo — and the offense misfired in a key spot late as their four-game winning streak was snapped in an 8-2 loss.
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Gallardo (2-5) lost his fourth straight start despite allowing just three earned runs in each of them. He has received a grand total of two runs of support in those losses.
The Fort Worth resident was foiled once again by the kind of rotten luck that seems to find one pitcher on every team each season.
“Today was the best I’ve felt, honestly,” Gallardo said. “I have to keep going out there and do my job.
“It’s one of those things where the only thing I can do is go out there and make a pitch, and anything after that I can’t control. It’s one of those things you can’t explain that happens in this game. I just have to keep moving forward.”
Gallardo said that he made only one bad pitch, missing his location with a second-inning fastball that David DeJesus turned into a solo home run and a 1-0 Tampa Bay lead.
That was the score in the sixth, when the speedy Kevin Kiermaier sent a grounder to Andrus. The shortstop couldn’t corral it, and his throw after the bobble was too late.
“I knew the guy can run, so I believe I hurried a little bit,” Andrus said. “It’s a pretty tough play when guys like him are hitting. You’ve got to make a quick throw. I hate making an error.”
Two of the next three Rays singled, including an RBI liner by Evan Longoria that ended Gallardo’s night. Claudio entered to face pinch-hitter Brandon Guyer, who lifted the next pitch into the seats for a three-run homer and a 5-0 lead.
Two of those runs were charged to Gallardo, who also was tagged with some déjà vu. He was trailing 2-0 on Sunday against Oakland when replaced by Claudio, who coughed up a three-run homer to Stephen Vogt.
On April 22 at Arizona, the Rangers made two errors behind Gallardo. Five days later against Seattle, the offense scored just once for him.
“We got a little sloppy tonight,” manager Jeff Banister said.
He wasn’t just talking about the defense or the bullpen work, which included three runs in the eighth against Stolmy Pimentel. The Rangers struck out 12 times against Nathan Karns and three relievers, and missed out on a big inning in the eighth.
Adam Rosales started the inning with a home run, and the next three batters singled to load the bases with no outs for the middle of the lineup.
Prince Fielder struck out for the first out, and Adrian Beltre’s bid for a game-tying grand slam was caught on the warning track for a harmless sacrifice fly.
“I thought it had a chance,” Banister said.
After Kyle Blanks walked, Carlos Peguero struck out to end the threat. But the trend of no offensive support, faulty defense and little relief help continued whenever Gallardo starts.
“Yovani has thrown the ball well,” Banister said. “I believe he’s going to continue to throw the ball well and we’re going to score runs for him and he’s going to come out on the winning side of those. That won’t continue to be a trend when Yovani is on the mound.”
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760