Rangers score early, but fall late
Texas gets three runs in first two innings but go quiet afterwards
TORONTO -- A botched double-play ball by Jamey Wright was all it took for the Rangers to lose the opener of a three-game against the Blue Jays.
Wright's errant throw in the sixth inning led to three Blue Jays runs that proved to be the difference in a 6-4 Rangers loss on Friday night at Rogers Centre.
"They capitalized on our mistakes," said Rangers center fielder Marlon Byrd.
The sixth inning started off innocently enough. Wright opened the frame by allowing Toronto's Vernon Wells to reach base, but then got designated hitter Frank Thomas to hit a sharp ground ball back to the mound. Wright fielded the ball cleanly and turned towards second base, looking to start the double play.
As he was about to throw the ball, Wright realized shortstop Michael Young was still well off the bag. Instead of setting his feet and allowing Young enough time to reach the base, Wright (3-4) double-clutched and then made an off-balance throw into center field.
"Bad throw -- I had Mike the whole way," Wright said. "Right when I looked at him, he was 15 feet from the base. So I double-clutched and tried to throw it over there, and I just didn't have anything on the ball. I didn't have my feet under me and the ball sailed away."
The throwing error completely changed the outlook of the inning. Instead of turning the double play and pitching with no men on, Wright had runners on the corners with nobody out.
The Jays immediately capitalized on the mistake. Toronto second baseman Aaron Hill hit an RBI double doubled to the gap in left-center field and catcher Gregg Zaun followed that with a two-run single to right. Just like that the Jays went up three runs, a lead they never looked back on.
"If I make the throw -- Frank's not as fast as he used to be -- I'm sure we would have gotten the double play," Wright said. "Two hits probably would have scored one run, at the most. Instead, they scored three runs out of that. A bad throw and two hits later it just sort of snowballed."
Wright came on in relief of Rangers starter Kevin Millwood, who managed to get through just four innings of work. Millwood labored through those four frames, allowing three runs while being forced to throw 96 pitches.
Millwood had been experiencing flu-like symptoms earlier in the week but he said that had nothing to do with his short night.
"I felt fine," Millwood said. "I had plenty of energy, I just had to work too hard early in the game. Not really any quick at-bats and it seemed like they found a couple of holes."
The Rangers' offense got off to a fast start against Toronto ace Roy Halladay but were unable to keep the momentum going. Texas (48-61) scored one run in the first inning and two more in the second, but managed to cross the plate just one more time the rest of the way.
Texas managed to generate a lot of scoring opportunities against Halladay, but the Rangers were unable to come up with the timely hit when they needed it the most. Even though his team stranded eight runners in the game, Rangers manager Ron Washington said he was pleased with the approach his young hitters took against one of the game's best pitchers.
"I thought we did a good job of battling him," Washington said. "He didn't have his great stuff tonight, his command was a little off, too. We made him work, we made him throw some pitches, they just ended up scoring more runs than we did."
Friday night's game should be an important stepping stone for the Rangers young offense. They hung tough against Halladay (12-5), a former Cy Young Award winner.
"Those young kids got up there and got their hacks in," Washington said. "He threw some good pitches to them, too. He showed them some stuff they maybe haven't seen before but they certainly didn't look intimidated.
"If we turned the double play in the sixth inning, the Doc doesn't get the W."
Gregor Chisholm is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.