You know, it's games like these that make it tough to be a Rangers fan. But for whatever reason, I keep coming back.
After Robinson Tejeda's miserable start, Texas probably didn't deserve to win this game. They were down 7-3 going into the bottom of the 8th inning, after being held in check for seven innings by Houston's Chris Sampson. Tejeda gave up seven runs (five earned) in just 3.2 innings, on five hits and four walks. It was yet another disappointing start for Robinson, who now has a 6.57 ERA on the year.
And in the end, it would be disappointment that reigned supreme in Arlington tonight.
For a while, though, that didn't look to be the case. Astros manager Phil Garner called on Rick White to relieve Sampson in the 8th inning, who promptly gave up a pair of singles to Kenny Lofton and Ian Kinsler. Garner quickly went to Dan Wheeler, who struck out Michael Young, and the rally seemed to be on the verge of dying. But a wild pitch and a Sammy Sosa bloop hit later, the score was 7-5, with Frank Catalanotto coming to the plate as the tying run.
I somewhat jokingly put in "the call" for Cat at this point to a friend I was chatting with online. What happened next floored me, as Catalanotto hit a dramatic two run shot into the lower home run porch to tie the game. As we all know, you simply can't fail after a comeback like this; getting your hopes up with a rally, only to fall just short in the end, hurts more than not rallying at all.
Eric Gagne came in for the 9th inning in a 7-7 game, and right away showed that he had nothing. Hunter Pence laced a double off the left field wall to lead off the inning, and Berkman walked. Carlos Lee hit a deep fly ball to left center field which appeared to be gone judging by Lee's reaction, but Lofton tracked it down in the alley.
With runners on 1st and 3rd and one out, Mark Loretta hit a single to center field that Lofton badly misplayed, allowing Pence and Berkman to score easily. Had Lofton played the ball correctly, Berkman might have been held at 2nd base, and certainly wouldn't have scored.
Gagne eventually got out of the inning, but the Rangers would have to rally a second time if they wanted to win. Marlon Byrd led off the bottom of the 9th with another long home run, which would have been a walkoff blast if Gagne had been as unhittable tonight as he had been all year. Neither Ramon Vazquez or Lofton could reach base, however, and Ian Kinsler was the Rangers' last hope, with Lofton's defensive miscue in the previous half-inning looming very large.
Incredibly, Kinsler clubbed a majestic, two out home run to left field that knotted the game at 9-9. At this point, it just felt like a game the Rangers were destined to win. The little Rangers, winners of four straight and seven out of nine, were going to finish this comeback and add yet another dramatic walkoff win to their repertoire. Alas, it wasn't meant to be.
C.J. Wilson came on to begin the 10th inning, and let me be perfectly frank about his performance tonight: he sucked. Bad. Four hits and a walk later, you could forget about any walkoff magic, because Texas was suddenly down three runs. You can only ask the offense to pick up the pitching staff so many times, and Wilson's outing was the knockout blow. Catalanotto hit a double in the bottom of the 10th off reliever Chad Qualls, but that was all the Rangers had left, and they fell tonight 12-9.
Perhaps it's silly to feel so let down by a single game like this, especially when it really means nothing in the long run. But I'm always going to root for the Rangers to win, and in a season like this, I'll take any uplifting moments I can get. Eric Gagne and C.J. Wilson have been pretty much lights out all year, but they both failed miserably tonight, and it cost Texas a chance at a really exciting win. Of course, Tejeda also carries a lot of blame as well.
Ironically enough, Dave Sessions of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has a Sunday piece out praising the recent average pitching by the starting rotation, which has been a nice change from the historically bad pace the rotation had been on. Unfortunately, after Tejeda's work tonight, the rotation ERA for the year is now back up to 6.70, still on pace to break Detroit's 1996 mark of 6.64 as the worst rotation ERA in baseball history.
Brandon McCarthy made his first rehab start since being placed on the disabled list on June 14th with a blister on his right middle finger. McCarthy threw 63 pitches and went 4.1 innings in the second game of Sunday's doubleheader for the Oklahoma Redhawks. He gave up no runs, and surrendered just three hits. He walked nobody, and punched out six. So far, so good. The Rangers want McCarthy to make one more rehab start, which is set for Friday at Double-A Frisco. He'll be on a 75-pitch limit.
Vicente Padilla will not return from the disabled list until after the All-Star break, and will receive 20 to 22 days off, as the break will allow him an extra four or five days of rest for his sore right triceps muscle. If Padilla's situation doesn't improve over the next three weeks, I would expect to see him going under the knife not long after.
John Koronka has been having control issues lately in AAA, and neither Benoit nor Eyre are attractive starting options in the least. Mike Wood is back and healthy for Oklahoma, and gave up just two runs in seven innings on Friday night, so he may be in the mix for Tuesday's start in Detroit.
Tim MacMahon's sarcastic remarks on the Seam Heads DMN blog are starting to get on my nerves. Some folks on Lone Star Ball feel that MacMahon's nothing more than a bit, or that he's just there to serve as a foil to Evan Grant in order to drum up traffic. Others might just call him stupid. Take your pick.
Rest in peace Rod Beck, who was found dead in his Phoenix home at noon on Saturday. Beck, a three time All-Star closer, saved 286 games in his career, and finished his career with a 3.30 ERA. He last pitched in 2004 for the San Diego Padres. Beck was just 38 years old.
Texas begins a frightening 11-game stretch on Monday night against the three best teams in baseball, with four in Detroit, four in Boston and three back at home against Anaheim. We'll see soon enough whether this recent mini-renaissance by the Rangers will continue against much tougher AL competition, or if Texas will come crashing back to earth.
Then again, after tonight's game, they might already have.
Monday, June 25th Game Preview
Texas Rangers (30-45) at Detroit Tigers (45-29)
Kameron Loe (3-6, 6.34 ERA) vs. Jeremy Bonderman (8-0, 4.01 ERA)
6:05 PM CST in Detroit, Michigan (Comerica Park)
TV: FSNSW | Radio: KRLD 1080 AM