Rangers bitten by big inning in loss
Texas pitchers allow five runs on seven hits in sixth inning
HOUSTON -- Rangers shortstop Michael Young wasn't going to pin this loss on one key call by a third-base umpire.As Young said afterward, "It didn't have anything to do with the outcome of the game. If you get one run on [six] hits you're not going to win the game." All manager Ron Washington knows is that he would rather have been down 3-1 instead of 6-1 at the end of six innings. But it was a five-run deficit and that's how it stayed in the Rangers' 6-1 loss to the Houston Astros on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park. One questionable call by third-base umpire Tim Timmons was hardly the only thing that went against the Rangers that inning, as they coughed up five runs and lost for the ninth time in 12 games. But that was the one play that irritated Washington the most. "I thought the call at third base was blown," Washington said. "That was the difference between us being down 6-1 and 3-1. We're still just going to the seventh inning and we still have three at-bats. I felt like we had a shot." Rangers starter John Koronka, called up from Triple-A Oklahoma, was solid for five innings. But Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez went one inning better than Koronka to get the win, holding the Rangers to one run on four hits while striking out seven. "He was good, you have to give him credit," Young said. "He pitched a good game against us, but as an offense, you have to take responsibility for doing your job and push some runs across, no matter how good he was doing his job." Koronka was doing fine through five innings. He had some control issues early, and the Astros manufactured a run off him in the third to take a 1-0 lead. But a double by Young and a two-out single by Nelson Cruz tied the game in the top of the sixth, and Koronka had retired six of seven going into the bottom of the inning. "I felt like a rookie again," Koronka said. "I was a little nervous but I finally started to settle down a little bit."
Then came the bottom of the sixth and it all fell apart for the Rangers. Rookie third baseman Travis Metcalf found himself in the middle of it all with more controversy than he needed in his first Major League game.The Astros started the inning with singles from Hunter Pence and Morgan Ensberg. Jason Lane then dropped a bunt toward third that nobody went after right away. Koronka finally fielded it but had nowhere to throw, and the Astros had the bases loaded. Washington said Metcalf should have read the bunt and made the play while Koronka took the blame, saying, "I obviously broke a little late. If I had broken right away, I could have gotten the ball to third base." Washington then brought in right-hander Scott Feldman to face Brad Ausmus, who immediately hit a double-play grounder to short that scored one run and left a runner on third. The Rangers then elected to pitch around and walk left-handed pinch-hitter Mike Lamb, who is hitting .345, for a righty vs. righty matchup between Feldman and Craig Biggio. "I felt we could get Biggio, use the sinker and get a ground ball," Washington said. "I thought Lamb wasn't a good matchup." Biggio is 41 and entered the game hitting over 100 points lower than Lamb. But the future Hall of Famer lined a sinker to right-center for the 2,970th hit of his career, giving the Astros a 3-1 lead and moving Lamb to second. Then came the play of the night. Mark Loretta hit a ground ball to the left-side hole and Young made a backhanded stop. His only play was to third base and his throw appeared to have Lamb beat. But Timmons ruled that Metcalf's foot wasn't on the bag even though it appeared otherwise on television replays. "I could have sworn my foot was on the bag," said Metcalf, who wisely let Washington do all the arguing with Timmons. Timmons told Washington that Metcalf swiped at Lamb, indicating that the third baseman didn't feel he had his foot on the bag. "His foot was all over the bag," Washington said. In the Astros' clubhouse, Lamb smiled and feigned innocent on the whole thing. "It was blatantly obvious that I was safe," Lamb said. "The umpire called me safe, so I couldn't have been out. My opinion on the play doesn't matter. It's only the guy that makes the call that matters, right? "You guys saw the replays. I mean, good grief. I don't need to see the replay. It turned out to be a pretty good call." It did for the Astros. C.J. Wilson took over for Feldman, but Lance Berkman lined a single to right for two more runs, and Carlos Lee singled to right to make it a 6-1 game.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.