ARLINGTON, Texas – At least the Texas Rangers won’t have long to dwell on Wednesday night’s 9-3 loss to Oakland.
Not with what’s looming to be the biggest game of the year on the schedule for 1:05 Thursday.
The Rangers played one of their ugliest innings of the year in the first Wednesday and never recovered as Oakland cut the Texas lead in the American League West to three games with seven remaining. If the Rangers can rebound from Wednesday and win Thursday, their lead will be back to four and the magic number down to three.
That’s their plan now.
“Hopefully it (the lead) will be back up to four tomorrow and that will make everybody feel better,” said outfielder Josh Hamilton, who had a key error in a five-run Oakland first.
Texas, which has now lost four its last six games, will have to play much better than it did Wednesday to do that.
Starter Martin Perez didn’t make it out of the first inning, and three defensive miscues didn’t help the rookie left-hander.
Stephen Drew, who led off for Oakland, opened the game by hitting a fly ball to right. Nelson Cruz misplayed the ball into a double as it landing on the warning track. Two batters later Yoenis Cespedes tripled to put the A’s up for good.
It would get worse though as Josh Donaldson hit a single to center with two runners on that Hamilton let scoot under his glove for an error that pushed the lead to 4-0. Two batters later Derek Norris hit a ball to left center that Hamilton took an odd route to and Norris ended up with an RBI triple and a 5-0 Oakland lead.
Hamilton missed five games last week because of vision problems due to ocular keratosis, but that wasn’t his issue in the first.
“I went to get it and it went right past me,” Hamilton said of the error under his glove. “I’ll go back and try to look at the video. It wasn’t there. The ball in the gap, I went to a spot that I thought it was going to be and it took off.”
The defensive mistakes proved to be too much for Perez to overcome, as he was pulled after the Norris triple. He finished with the shortest outing by a Texas starter since Derek Holland also went two-thirds of an inning last July 2. Perez threw just 24 pitches and allowed five hits.
The five hits in the first for Oakland was also the total for Texas on the night.
“Just the five runs in the first,” said David Murphy of the big hole. “If they didn’t put up any additional runs it would have helped but we never even scored five. It’s tough to get in a hole like that early, especially against a team who’s playing as well as they are now. It’s one game. It’s one night. Obviously each game is important at this point of the season. There’s no reason to dwell on it.”
If there were, it wouldn’t just be the first inning the Rangers would dwell on.
The Rangers used six pitchers for the third consecutive game, and Oakland took advantage by tacking on two runs in the third, one in the fourth and another in the ninth.
Those additional runs proved to be overkill as once again struggled to get any offense going.
The Rangers trailed 5-3 after two innings but scored all three runs without the benefit of a hit with a runner in scoring position. Texas went 0 for 7 with RISP Wednesday and is now mired in a 6 for 59 slide with runners in scoring position.
After making the initial rebound to get the game close, Texas didn’t have a hit after the fifth inning. The Rangers have now scored three or fewer runs in eight of the last 10 games and totaled 30 runs in the last 10 games.
The combination of no timely hitting and starting staff that’s totaled just 7 2/3 innings in the first three games of the series isn’t exactly the way the Rangers wanted to start their final homestand of the year.
Bad yes, but by Thursday afternoon that can all change.
“If we come back tomorrow and win a ballgame, they leave out of here the same way they came in,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “We feel like we’re going to win tomorrow. Just didn’t get it done tonight.”