Rangers unable to salvage finale
McCarthy's quality start spoiled by lack of offensive production
TORONTO -- Brandon McCarthy might have come out on the losing end of a pitchers' duel, but his performance on Sunday shows how far the 24-year-old has come in his first full season as a Major League starter.
The Rangers right-hander didn't have his best stuff against the Blue Jays, but managed to pitch his way out of several jams en route to his second consecutive quality start. Unfortunately for the Rangers, Toronto starter Dustin McGowan was even more impressive, and Texas lost its fourth game in a row, 4-1.
"[McCarthy] did what did what he's supposed to do," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "When you get in trouble, you make pitches, and he made pitches. ... He got us to the seventh and he was in the game, 2-1. McGowan was just a little bit better."
Based on the first three innings, it looked like McCarthy might be in store for a long day. He opened the game by walking two of the first three batters he faced and then surrendered an RBI single to Jays designated hitter Frank Thomas.
In the second and third, McCarthy gave up leadoff doubles, but each time was able to pitch his way out of the jam without allowing any runs to score. After that, he settled in and only allowed one more run over his next three innings.
McCarthy said he realized that he needed to make some adjustments after the first inning, and those changes helped him settle into the game.
"I wanted to work on what my problem was in the first," McCarthy said. "That was rushing, coming out early and leading to bad pitches. I wanted to make the adjustments where I could keep going and make quality pitches from that point. I'm proud of that -- how I was able to kind of fix that on the fly and go back and have quality innings."
The fact that McCarthy (5-8) was able to change his approach in the middle of the game proves he's starting to mature as a pitcher. During his last trip to Toronto on April 29, McCarthy ran into similar control problems in the first inning, but wasn't able to make the necessary adjustments. He was chased from that game after surrendering five runs over just three innings.
"Last time, the game kept getting worse," McCarthy said. "Today, I was able to clean it up a little bit and make some better pitches. I felt like I did a better job later in the game getting offspeed pitches over, which is something in the past I haven't been able to do if I didn't have it early."
Sunday's series finale marked the debut of Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate for the Rangers. Saltalamacchia, the key player the Rangers acquired in a deal that sent first baseman Mark Teixeira to the Braves, had spent his previous four games with Texas at first base.
"He was excellent," Washington said. "Good receiver, he made every pitch that was thrown look like a strike. Real soft back there, quiet, blocks balls well. He looked like a catcher."
The biggest challenge Saltalamacchia faces is becoming familiar with the Rangers' (48-63) pitching staff. That's something he managed to do rather quickly during McCarthy's start on Sunday.
"I got into a good rhythm with McCarthy in about the second or third inning," Saltalamacchia said. "We were doing pretty well. I felt good back there."
Saltalamacchia also broke an 0-for-18 skid with a single to right in the top of the seventh inning off McGowan. In 47 games for Atlanta, Saltalamacchia hit .284 with four home runs and 12 RBIs. Since his move to the American League, though, his numbers haven't been quite as impressive.
"It definitely felt good to get a couple of hits in," said Saltalamaccia, who added another single in the ninth inning. "I'm going to hit, it's just a matter of getting comfortable. Starting off in a new league, and you start with your average at .000 ... it's a mind game right now. I feel good at the plate, so even though they were cheap little hits, I'll take them."
Saltalamacchia was one of the few bright spots for the Rangers' offense. McGowan (8-5) allowed just one run on eight hits while striking out six over eight-plus innings of work. His only mistake of the game came when left fielder Frank Catalanotto led off the game with a homer to right.
As a result, McCarthy became the hard-luck loser and dropped his eighth contest of the season.
"It's tough," said McCarthy who has allowed just three runs over his last 12 2/3 innings. "It's the middle of August and you have five wins. But at the same time, if you keep throwing well, things will eventually turn around."
Gregor Chisholm is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.