ARLINGTON, Texas — Mark Lowe’s continued struggles overshadowed what was another strong night for the Texas Rangers bullpen Tuesday night.
What they couldn’t overshadow was another tough night for the Texas offense.
Rangers reliever Lowe served up the game-winning homer to A’s catcher George Kottaras in the 10th inning of the 3-2 loss to Oakland. The good news is that Lowe is unlikely to be a key contributor in the postseason if the Rangers can finish off the Athletics, who they still lead by four games in the American League West.
The Rangers might not last long in the playoffs if they don’t get their sputtering offense going soon. Texas hasn’t scored more than five runs in its last six games and has scored three or less in seven of the last night.
Lack of offensive production will make hiccups like Lowe’s impossible to overcome. The Rangers were 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position Tuesday and are just 3 for 13 in a series in which they also snapped a 0-for-24 drought with RISP.
“For any pitcher whenever you’ve got a few runs you’re going to feel better,” said shortstop Elvis Andrus, who scored one of the two Texas runs in the first inning. “We had our chances tonight but they made some good plays. It’s always tough when you face somebody new. They have pretty good pitching and try to keep you off balance. There’s nothing you can do when a guy’s throwing his pitches.”
The guy Tuesday was Oakland left-hander Tommy Milone. The Rangers had a chance to get to him for a big inning in the first as they opened the game with three consecutive hits, with the third one botched by Brandon Ross in right field. That miscue allowed two runs to score and put Josh Hamilton on third base with no outs.
But Milone then got Adrian Beltre to pop up, Nelson Cruz to ground out and struck out Michael Young to end the inning with Hamilton still on third. That was a key run and a theme for the night. Texas didn’t have many chances but capitalized on none of them. With the game tied at two, the Rangers loaded the bases in the seventh for Andrus. He crushed a Sean Doolittle pitch to right but Moss made up for his gaffe by running the ball down.
The Rangers would have just one more baserunner the rest of the way and Josh Hamilton was picked off first, the second Texas player picked off in the game.
Even an offense like the one the Rangers have, which leads the majors in average, runs and total bases, can go through bad stretches. They believe that’s all it is.
“We had the right guys up there,” said Young, who went 1 for 3. “They made some pitches and that was pretty much it. Same old thing, if we’re getting guys out there we have all the confidence in the world that we’re going to bring them in.”
Rangers manager Ron Washington isn’t too concerned about his team’s lack of offensive execution.
“It hasn’t been a season-long theme,” he said. “We’ve had situations through the course of the season where maybe we weren’t getting the runners in. This certainly hasn’t been a season-long thing, because those guys, they’ve been driving in runs. Just recently it just hasn’t been happening.”
The same could be said for Lowe, who spoiled a night in which the Rangers were forced to use reliever Scott Feldman to start because Yu Darvish was scratched with a stiff neck.
Feldman allowed two runs in four innings and the first three Texas relievers did their jobs. Michael Kirkman pitched two scoreless innings and Koji Uehara was perfect for one. Alexi Ogando, who had struggled recently, pitched two innings before the Rangers turned the ball over to Lowe.
Washington went to Lowe over Tanner Scheppers because Scheppers hasn’t faced hitters since hurting his knee in Los Angeles last week. He also didn’t want closer Joe Nathan to pitch the 10th because of the workload he’s had lately.
Lowe, who had an ERA of 20.25 in September coming into the game, was beat by No. 9-hitter Kottaras on a 3-2 fastball to lead off the 10th. He also allowed a double before getting pulled for Scheppers.
Lowe hadn’t pitched in a week and said it’s hard to pitch well when you’re not getting regular work. But he didn’t use that as an excuse.
“I don’t think there’s any pressure I’m putting on myself at all,” Lowe said. “I’m going about my business the same way I have my whole career. Things aren’t going my way right now. That’s the way the game is. I’ll get to the point where I bounce back and be on track.”