Saunders struggles as Texas slide hits seven

Texas Rangers starting pitcher Joe Saunders reacts to giving up a home run to Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez in the fifth inning.

Tim Heitman/Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

ARLINGTON, Texas – Texas manager Ron Washington knows there’s no secret to his team breaking out of the slump they’re in.

The Rangers have to start hitting better and pitching better.

At least for a night they got part of the equation right.

Texas scored six times but the pitching struggles continued as Detroit handed Texas its seventh-consecutive loss 8-6 at Globe Life Park. The loss dropped Texas to seven games under .500 for the first time since Sept. 22, 2008.

Wednesday night the chance to bust out of the losing streak was in a quick hole as the Rangers were down 3-0 before they got to bat as Joe Saunders struggled again.
Saunders was tagged for three extra-base hits in the first inning and was gone after allowing a leadoff homer to Victor Martinez in the fifth inning. The veteran left-hander struggled with location (42 strikes, 42 balls) and couldn’t handle the prosperity given to him by the Texas offense after a three-run fourth inning made it a 5-3 game.

His homer allowed to Victor Martinez was followed by one from J.D. Martinez off Shawn Tolleson, pushing the advantage back to four runs.

Saunders (0-4) retired 12 batters and allowed 12 baserunners (seven hits, five walks) while getting tagged for six earned runs. Texas, which allowed at least eight runs 14 times the entire 2013 season, has done it a major-league high 20 times in their first 77 games.

In his last two starts Saunders been tagged for 13 runs (10 earned) on 17 hits while walking eight. Those two outings have lasted a total of 8 2/3 innings.

Saunders felt good coming into the game.

"The results weren’t there but I felt like it could have and should have been better than it was," Saunders said. "I thought I made some pretty decent pitches, some close pitches that didn’t get called but that’s what you have to deal with. You’ve got to keep going, but they’re a good hitting ball club. I just tried to keep us close."

Texas manager Ron Washington thinks Saunders’ lack of command has cost him.

"He just hasn’t been throwing strikes," Washington said. "Then when he has been throwing strikes they’ve been in the middle of the plate so he hasn’t been able to get the ball on the corners. When he brings it over the plate they’ve been hitting it well."

Texas did manage to score more than three runs in a game for the first time since June 17 but the pitching blunted that performance. The Rangers scored three times in the fourth to cut into a 5-0 deficit.

Texas also scored single runs in the sixth, seventh and ninth innings. The Rangers had the tying run at the plate with two outs in the ninth. But former Texas closer Joe Nathan struck out Carlos Pena to end the game. Pena had a hand in the nine-hit Texas offense, hitting his first homer with the Rangers and collecting two hits.

But once again the pieces didn’t fit together for a Texas club that’s in the throes of its first seven-game slide since last September.

"It’s hard to comprehend a seven game losing streak but it is what it is," Washington said. "We know why. We’ve just got to score some runs and we’ve got to pitch better."