Texas Rangers

A walk-off loss, yes, but Lynn kept alive the formula that will keep the Rangers rolling

Check back in a couple weeks to see how the rotation spot Drew Smyly lost Wednesday is doing, but it’s safe to assume the grass will be greener than the 8.40 ERA Smyly is lugging around the American League.

The Texas Rangers are bound to have someone in the minors who can improve upon that, with the smart money on Joe Palumbo. The Rangers will first use a bullpen day Friday, when the rotation cycles back to the vacated spot.

A move needed to be made, as was the case last month when Shelby Miller was sent to the bullpen. The Rangers were below .500 back then, but entered play Wednesday as one of MLB’s hottest teams.

The reason? The four other starters keep giving the Rangers a chance to win.

Lance Lynn took his turn Wednesday and delivered his seventh consecutive quality start, allowing three runs in six innings. He left losing by a run, took a no-decision after the Rangers tied the game in the eighth, but saw the Rangers take a walk-off loss, 4-3.

Jesse Chavez failed to retire a hitter in the ninth inning, and he walked reigning American League MVP Mookie Betts to force in the game-ending run and snap the Rangers’ two-game winning streak.

The Rangers hadn’t lost on a walk-off walk since Sept. 16, 2002, at Seattle. The run Wednesday was the first Chavez had allowed in 19 appearances.

“Today wasn’t a day I wasn’t able to do it in a situation we needed it,” he said.

Nevertheless, Lynn, Mike Minor, Adrian Sampson and Ariel Jurado have delivered. In their past 20 games, including three Sampson appearances behind an opener, they have pitched to a 2.73 ERA (37 earned runs in 122 innings).

Lynn said that he didn’t have his best stuff Wednesday, but it was good enough to get everyone except Andrew Benintendi. A day after F-bombing his way to an ejection, Benintendi doubled twice and tripled against Lynn, driving in two runs and scoring another to help the Red Sox overcome a 2-0 first-inning deficit.

“It’s a little frustrating because you get a two-run lead and you let them one at a time trickle away,” Lynn said. “Benintendi is the guy that got me the most. I made a couple pitches in I didn’t hate, and he just put good swings on them.”

The Rangers are 4-2 in their past six games, 6-3 in their past nine, 9-4 in their past 13 and 19-9 since May 15. A team can’t do that simply by bludgeoning opposing pitching.

The rotation has been at the center of the a stretch that has put the Rangers into playoff contention.

“They’ve given us a chance to win almost every game we’ve played,” manager Chris Woodward said. “That’s what quality starting pitching does. When your starting pitching keeps you in the game or keeps the lead when you get it, it’s critical for putting winning streaks together. That’s kind of the recipe for long-term success in a season.”

The Rangers collected three straight hits in the first inning against Rick Porcello, with the third a two-run double by Hunter Pence, but didn’t have another hit until Elvis Andrus singled with two outs in the sixth.

Andrus tied the game in the eighth with a sacrifice fly.

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After 11 seasons covering the Rangers for the Star-Telegram, Jeff Wilson knows that baseball is a 24/7/365 business and there is far more to baseball than just the 162 games each season. There’s also more to Jeff -- like a family and impressive arsenals of Titleist hats and adidas shoes -- but sometimes it’s hard to tell.