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Cruz crushes a two-run shot to deep left

ARLINGTON -- As the innings start to pile up for first-time Major League starter Alexi Ogando, the questions are going to start coming about how he's doing physically and how much he can take.

Especially now with three consecutive poor starts for Ogando, the latest coming in a 14-5 walloping that the New York Mets put on the Rangers on Saturday afternoon at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Ogando lasted only three innings, allowing three-run innings in the first and third. The only good news was his ERA wasn't impacted too much -- it went from 2.66 to 2.87 -- but that's because an error by third baseman Adrian Beltre made the runs in the third unearned, and it could be argued that was a favorable scoring decision for Ogando.

Whatever the case, the 27-year-old has averaged just over three innings in his last three starts, and twice he's gone less than three. He's allowed 10 earned runs in 9 2/3 innings. Not the kind of numbers he was posting two weeks ago, when he looked like a sure All-Star selection

But Ogando, and everyone around him, dispute that the 91 innings he's thrown so far are causing him to wear down. He threw half of that, 41 2/3 innings, last year in a sensational rookie debut as a reliever for the American League champions.

"I feel strong," Ogando said. "I don't feel that I'm weak or losing my strength. I'm trying to do my job. I know that I've had three bad outings. That's not the reason. Physically, I think I'm OK, and I feel strong."

Location and a bad decision on a sure double-play ball were Ogando's downfall against a Mets lineup without injured top hitters David Wright and Ike Davis, and sitting regulars Jason Bay and Justin Turner, who were nursing minor aches and pains. Ogando got his fastball up early in the game, and he allowed singles to leadoff hitter Jose Reyes and Willie Harris to start the top of the first.

Carlos Beltran then pounded a fastball into right field, and it shot off the leg of right fielder Nelson Cruz into the gap in right-center for a two-run triple. Daniel Murphy's sacrifice fly to left scored Beltran for a 3-0 Mets lead.

"I was trying to make my pitches," Ogando said, "and I couldn't get control of it. I was falling behind in the count, so I had to come over the plate."

An error to start the third inning by Beltre set up another three-run inning for the Mets. But a poor decision by Ogando kept him from getting out of the jam, and maybe surviving the error.

After Beltre's error and a single by Beltran, Murphy hit a sharp grounder back to the mound. Ogando fielded the ball cleanly, but instead of going to second base to start the easy double play, he threw the ball to third, and Beltre made the tag but only got the one out.

Angel Pagan then flew out for what would have the third out, but Lucas Duda, who had a career-high four hits in the game, hit a two-run double before Josh Thole added a run-scoring single for a 6-0 lead.

The Rangers did briefly appear set to get back into the game against Mets starter Jon Niese. Beltre started the fourth inning by hitting the first pitch he saw from Niese into the center-field bleachers to cut the lead to 6-1. Michael Young followed with a home run to left field to trim the Mets' lead to 6-2.

But Rangers relievers Dave Bush and Michael Kirkman killed any hope of a rally in the top of the sixth. The first eight batters reached base as the Mets scored eight runs in the inning, four off each pitcher. Duda had another key hit with a two-run double to center field.

The focal point after the game was Ogando. At this point, there's been no talk about shutting him down for a few starts.

"He's overthrowing right now," catcher Yorvit Torrealba said. "He's just trying too hard."

Ogando said he's not concerned, and that his 6-foot-4, 195-pound frame is holding up just fine. He knows he can't throw 76 pitches in three innings and pitch effectively. He said he'll continue to go about his normal between-starts routine.

"I never give up," Ogando said. "I'm the kind of person or player, I don't give up. Not doing my job in the last three outings, I have to keep working and learn from the mistakes I've been making and, of course, take the bad things that I did and try to get them out of my work when I'm on the mound. I have to get it together."

For his part, manager Ron Washington said he's not concerned about Ogando's mini-slump.

"How many starts do you get? 30?" Washington said. "And he's had three bad ones in a row. I hope he makes an adjustment in his next start. Today you have to give the New York Mets credit for the way they swung the bats."

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