Rangers 'pen springs leaks against O's
Weary relievers allow four runs in ugly eighth inning
ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Ron Washington doesn't think the number of innings his bullpen has thrown is catching up with his team, nor does reliever Wes Littleton.But, on Saturday, the bullpen showed signs of wearing down, letting a three-run lead slip away in an 11-9 loss to the Orioles at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Baltimore rallied in the seventh and eighth innings for its second come-from-behind victory of the series. The Rangers (71-84) lost for the 10th time in 12 games games and fell to 13 games below .500. The bullpen has now pitched 571 innings -- most in the Majors and 55 more innings than any other team in the American League. "We've thrown a lot of innings, but we ain't got any excuses," Washington said. "We just couldn't stop them late." Asked if he felt the bullpen was wearing down, Littleton bluntly answered, "No." With C.J. Wilson and Joaquin Benoit both unavailable on Saturday, Akinori Otsuka out for the season with an injury and Eric Gagne traded to Boston, Washington had to rely on Bill White and Littleton in the seventh and eighth innings. The Orioles (66-88) took advantage of the two pitchers, who started in the Minors this season, by scoring two runs off White and four against Littleton (3-2), who wound up shouldering the loss. The late meltdown spoiled what appeared to be Ian Kinsler's night the first six innings, as he joined the 20-20 club. Kinsler ripped a three-run, line-drive home run to left field in the second inning to give the Rangers an early three-run lead. Considering Kinsler's at-bat, the momentum seemingly shifted to the Rangers after his home run. With a 2-2 count, Baltimore starter Radhames Liz threw inside, knocking Kinsler back, as the ball bounced to the backstop. Kinsler shook it off and glared at Liz. He fouled off the next pitch and won the battle with his 20th home run of the season. "The past week, I've definitely been thinking about that last home run, and it's nice to get it out of the way," Kinsler said. "The way the season has gone, personally and as a team, there is some disappointment. But, it's definitely an accomplishment, and I'm glad I got it." Before the season, a 20-20 season was the "least" Kinsler wanted to accomplish. He found his offensive power in 2005 at Triple-A Oklahoma, belting 23 homers that season. Last season, his first year in the big leagues, Kinsler hit 14 home runs in 423 at-bats. "I didn't think I'd hit for power coming up through the minors," Kinsler said. "But, I learned how to use all of my leverage and made adjustments to hit for power." To top it off, Kinsler also had his 22nd stolen base of the season in the first inning. His second-inning blast appeared to be enough to cover Texas starter Edinson Volquez, who made his fifth start for the Rangers since joining the team on Sept. 1. Volquez went 5 2/3 innings, allowing five runs, all earned, on seven hits with two walks and five strikeouts. Volquez gave up a towering, two-run shot to Baltimore right fielder Nick Markakis in the first inning. Volquez was tagged for three more runs in the fourth, allowing a two-run triple to Freddie Bynum and a sacrifice fly to Brian Roberts. Volquez responded by retiring the side in the fifth, and the first two batters of the sixth before Washington pulled him in favor of White. "He struggled finding his rhythm in the first four innings, but he began settling down in the fifth," Washington said. "By that time, though, he had too many pitches. I just wish he could have found his rhythm a little earlier." White retired the final batter in the sixth, but struggled in the seventh as the Orioles loaded the bases. Littleton relieved White and gave up back-to-back sacrifice flies to Miguel Tejada and Aubrey Huff as the Orioles cut the deficit to one run. An inning later, the Orioles took a three-run lead, scoring four runs -- all charged to Littleton. Littleton began the inning allowing a leadoff single to Ramon Hernandez. Littleton surrendered two more hits as the Orioles tied the game. In came John Rheinecker, who immediately gave up a two-run, go-ahead double to Markakis, who finished with five RBIs on the night. "Me, personally, I'm not making my pitches," Littleton said. "I got to keep it down in the zone." Hank Blalock drilled his ninth home run of the season in the bottom half of the eighth, a solo shot to cut the lead to two. It wasn't enough, though, to overcome the bullpen's meltdown and save Kinsler's night.
Drew Davison is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.