Ninth inning nearly nets victory in finale
Late rally dashed with bases loaded; Nippert handed loss
ARLINGTON -- Heading into the bottom of the ninth, Texas trailed by five runs with the bottom third of its order due up. Six batters later, Texas had pulled to within four with two outs, the bases loaded and Josh Hamilton stepping to the plate.Taking a page out of Buck Showalter's book, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon directed Grant Balfour to intentionally walk Hamilton, not only forcing in a run, but bringing the winning run, Marlon Byrd, to the plate. "The last time I saw that, I saw Buck do that in San Francisco to Barry Bonds," manager Ron Washington said. "We were just hoping Marlon could get one to the gap and bring some runs in." Maddon's bold move paid off when Dan Wheeler struck Byrd out to end the game and seal Tampa Bay's 7-4 victory. "I thought he had a couple pitches to do something with, but he just couldn't get them in play," Washington said of Byrd. After eight innings, though, the odds of the Rays having to use anyone out of their bullpen in a save situation were slim. Texas had managed just two runs off Scott Kazmir, while Dustin Nippert's spot start was shorter than some of his relief appearances this season. Nippert allowed seven runs on eight hits, including two home runs, in four innings. He faced just seven batters the first two innings, but he matched that number in the third inning alone as he allowed four runs -- three coming by way of a blast to right field from Carlos Pena. B.J. Upton added a two-run shot in the fourth. "The whole game I was just trying to establish my offspeed pitches, but I wasn't able to," Nippert said. "I didn't know how many pitches they were going to let me throw tonight, but I just wanted to give my team a chance to win, and I didn't do that." Nippert may have been disappointed with himself, but Kameron Loe nearly got him off the hook. Loe pitched five innings of shutout relief to give Texas its ray of hope in the ninth. A ray of hope also broke through from Oklahoma City, where Brandon McCarthy was making his seventh rehab start since returning to action from severe inflammation in his right forearm. McCarthy struck out seven in seven innings and allowed just four baserunners on three hits and a walk. Two-thirds of his 97 pitches were strikes. When Washington heard the news, he perked up and said: "That's good!"
With Texas in need of a fifth starter -- especially after Nippert's rough outing -- McCarthy is one of the Rangers' most viable options to enter the rotation. So, while Nippert became the 14th different pitcher to start for Texas this season, McCarthy could soon be No. 15.In five starts at Triple-A Oklahoma, McCarthy has struck out 23 in 26 2/3 innings while posting a 3.38 ERA. Since throwing a side session on Aug. 7 at Rangers Ballpark with team president Nolan Ryan, pitching coach Andy Hawkins and bullpen coach Jim Colborn, McCarthy has thrown 13 straight innings of shutout ball and posted 11 strikeouts and just two walks. But before Texas can worry about any additions to its roster, it must first deal with a couple of subtractions from Sunday's starting lineup. Milton Bradley was a late scratch from the starting lineup with a stiff back. Washington said he was able to take some swings, but he didn't want to start Bradley in case his back acted up midway through the game. Ian Kinsler left after the seventh inning, when he aggravated his left groin. Kinsler first tweaked his groin in the first inning making a play on a ground ball his way, but he stayed in until reaggravating it when he grounded out to third base in the seventh. "It was just the play in the first inning when it just grabbed on me," Kinsler said. "Then that last ground ball on [Chad] Bradford, it grabbed pretty good, so I had to come out." Washington said Kinsler was day-to-day, and Kinsler said he would have the groin checked out Monday. Regardless of who was in the lineup, Kazmir was hardly touched. In six innings, Kazmir recorded seven strikeouts, picked up almost exclusively on Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Chris Davis. Saltalamacchia, who took Bradley's spot in the lineup, struck out twice and lowered his average against left-handers to .162. Davis, meanwhile, struck out looking three times as Kazmir painted the corners. "I didn't think Kazmir had his best stuff, [but] we just couldn't get to him," Washington said. "Even though Kazmir didn't have his best stuff, he was able to keep us off the scoreboard."
Shawn Shroyer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.