ARLINGTON, Texas — The Texas Rangers had to find a way to win nine-consecutive games to finally have a margin for error.
They got to seven.
The Tampa Bay Rays eliminated the Rangers from postseason contention Monday with a 5-2 victory at Rangers Ballpark. The loss left the Rangers one game shy of their fourth-consecutive trip to the playoffs and disappointed with knowing that the elusive World Series title will have to wait at least one more season.
“We were close but we just weren’t good enough this year,” Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler said. “It’s been a lot of fun coming down here to the end. Basically we had to win nine games in a row and we got stuck at seven.”
Stuck because Tampa Bay ace left-hander David Price pitched a complete-game seven hitter. Stuck because the Rangers lost two more runners on base, giving them a whopping 111 in 163 games. Stuck because a bullpen that’s been nails in the final week of the season finally showed some signs of wear and allowed two runs.
Stuck because rookie left-hander Martin Perez gave up three early runs. Stuck because while 91 wins is considered successful by some standards, when it’s not enough to make the postseason for the Rangers, it’s no longer enough in Texas.
There are plenty of reasons the Rangers weren’t good enough for the postseason this year, but those may come across as excuses. Texas isn’t big on excuses.
“We didn’t get it done,” manager Ron Washington said. “We made a run at the end. We just didn’t get it done. I’ve got no excuse for that. We just didn’t get it done.”
Price had a lot to do with that Monday.
Tampa Bay, which had its postseason ended by the Rangers in 2010 and 2011, got Price all the support he’d need by the top of the third inning behind a sacrifice fly from Delmon Young in the first and a two-run homer from Evan Longoria in the third.
Price, who came into the game 1-7 with a 6.62 ERA against the Rangers for his career, made it stand up.
Texas got a run in the third in an Ian Kinsler RBI single and another in the sixth on an RBI double from Alex Rios. That was it for the offensive highlights though as Texas was just 2 of 9 with runners in scoring position and faltered when it had runners on base.
Elvis Andrus was picked off first in the first inning after drawing a one-out walk and Kinsler was picked off first in the third inning after his RBI single. With the margin for error slim with Price on the mound, the Rangers did little to help themselves on offense.
“He was mixing every pitch he had,” said third baseman Adrian Beltre, who led off the second with a double but was stranded there. “He was throwing his cutter, changeup, fastball in, fastball away. He was locating well. We put pressure on him in a couple of innings but we never got to him like we should.”
Perez (10-6) didn’t pitch poorly but struggled some with his command and it cost him.
Wil Myers, who walked with one out in the first, came around to score the game’s first run. And a leadoff walk to Desmond Jennings in the third proved costly as Evan Longoria blasted a two-run homer into the Texas bullpen in the third.
“It was a good pitch,” Perez said. “You can’t control the ball after you throw the pitch. He hit a good ball and they got three runs. We couldn’t hit tonight and that’s part of the game.”
Perez responded by retiring the next eight hitters before getting pulled for Alexi Ogando. But Ogando couldn’t stop the Rays either as he allowed a pair of doubles in the sixth, snapping a scoreless streak for the Texas bullpen at 13 2/3 innings.
The offense couldn’t answer the call either as the Rangers had just one hit over the final three innings and Nelson Cruz, who was activated before the game, grounded out to end an unfulfilled season for the Rangers.
“We just came up a little short,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “It stinks. It’s not fun, but we’re grown men in here and we knew what we had coming into this tonight and we had opportunities tonight and we didn’t cash them in and they did.”