Volquez struggles in loss to Tigers
Rangers now seven games behind division-leading Athletics
DETROIT -- Rangers manager Buck Showalter had to watch this one from the visiting manager's office at Comerica Park."With the sound off," Showalter pointed out. That left just the picture and it wan't much fun for Showalter to watch, especially when Tigers rookie right-hander Joel Zumaya came out of the bullpen and turned out the lights on the Rangers' offense in the sixth inning. Zumaya's fastball, which was clocked as high as 102 mph on the Comerica Park scoreboard, took away the Rangers' best chance of getting to ex-teammate Kenny Rogers and the Detroit Tigers held on for a 4-2 victory Thursday night. The Rangers, in losing for the second time in three nights, are now seven games behind the idle Oakland Athletics in the American League West. "I don't think I'm going to make four nights of this," Showalter said after serving the first game of his four-game suspension. Rookie right-hander Edinson Volquez could have made it easier on his manager, but he struggled through 3 2/3 innings, giving up three runs on eight hits and three walks, and the Rangers trailed 4-1 after five innings. "I thought his tempo was off," interim manager Don Wakamatsu said. "He didn't come out with the fire that he pitched with the last couple of games. It was a matter of not being aggressive enough for me." The Rangers were hoping to see better after Volquez threw seven scoreless innings in a start against the Seattle Mariners last Saturday. But the Mariners are in last place in the American League West while the Tigers have the best record in baseball. "I didn't see him have command of his fastball," pitching coach Mark Connor said. "Every hit that he gave up but one was off a fastball. He couldn't get the ball where he wanted." Volquez, who was making just his third start since being called up from Triple-A and his sixth Major League start overall, is now 1-2 with a 4.02 ERA. The Rangers would prefer not having to rely on an inexperienced pitcher against the Tigers in their own ballpark but there's more coming. With Vicente Padilla serving a five-game suspension and Kip Wells on the disabled list, the Rangers will have to pitch John Koronka and Robinson Tejeda this weekend against the Tigers. "That's where we're at," Connor said. The Rangers still had a shot at this one after Volquez departed. Rogers, in his inimitable style, kept the Rangers off-balance for five innings, then got into trouble in the sixth with a 4-1 lead. Michael Young led off with a double and Carlos Lee singled him to third. When Mark Teixeira coaxed a walk, Tigers manager Jim Leyland called on Zumaya. Rogers had been throwing generally between 75-87 mph on the evening. Zumaya's first pitch to Mark DeRosa popped catcher Ivan Rodriguez's glove at 100 mph. Zumaya walked DeRosa, forcing in a run. But after Rodriguez and pitching coach Chuck Hernandez paid him a visit to the mound, Zumaya started throwing strikes and got Ian Kinsler on a foul pop to third baseman Brandon Inge. "When he's throwing 101 miles per hour, it's on top of you pretty quick," Kinsler said. "Basically you have to make sure you're in hitting position in a hurry." Hank Blalock was next and he has a reputation for being a great fastball hitter. Zumaya got him to foul off a fastball on the first pitch, then threw a terrific changeup for strike two that might have been the biggest pitch of the night. The third pitch was a fastball clocked at 102 mph for strike three. "Pretty impressive," Wakamatsu said. Gerald Laird went next, striking out on a 100-mph fastball. "You can see why they're the best team in baseball when they can go to a bullpen like that," Laird said. "Bases loaded and no outs, you expect to score a couple of runs right there. But they went to the bullpen and shut us down." Zumaya, an 11th round pick out of high school in the 2002 draft, went two innings and threw 36 pitches, including 28 fastballs. Of those 28 fastballs, 22 were clocked at 100 mph or better. Even Rangers veteran pitcher Kevin Millwood was impressed. "I've seen guys throw 100 miles per hour," he said. "But I've never seen them live there." The Rangers saw it on Thursday night, either from the batter's box, the dugout or back upstairs in the clubhouse. It wasn't much fun to see.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.