Rangers endure rough night
Texas pitchers surrender nine runs in fifth inning
ARLINGTON -- Having completed late-inning comebacks the last two nights, the Rangers were in position Wednesday night to sweep a series for the first time all season at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.Not only did they come up short of doing so against the Tigers, the Rangers fell 13 runs shy of taking their third straight game over Detroit and climbing to within one game of the .500 mark. When starter Dustin Nippert began to falter in the fifth inning, Texas manager Ron Washington had a feeling the bullpen might not be able to sustain another lengthy workload. "We wanted to get him out of the fifth because we didn't have a lot left in the bullpen," Washington said. Washington's feelings were validated when six members of the bullpen combined to allow 12 runs in an eventual 17-4 loss. "When you use that many pitchers, that's because somebody isn't doing their job," Washington said. Nippert worked in and out of trouble leading up to the fifth inning, but his downfall began in the second when he let Miguel Cabrera and Gary Sheffield on base to lead off the inning after pitching a perfect first. "I was just trying to make the perfect pitch," Nippert said. "After the first inning, I let Cabrera on base and that got me into my stretch. After I walked Sheffield, I just started thinking about my mechanics too much." For a pitcher who aspires to be a starter, struggling to pitch out of the stretch would seem to be a fairly significant problem. And Wednesday wasn't the first time he's felt uncomfortable out of the stretch. "It's nothing to be overly worried about," Nippert said. "Once we get out there, we just have to pitch. We can't think about that stuff. We've just got to pitch." From there, Nippert's outing began to deteriorate. He allowed two runs in the second inning. Then came the fifth Perhaps it was a bad omen that the Rangers' emotional leader, Michael Young, left prior to the fifth inning after aggravating the fracture in his right middle finger. His last at-bat came in the third inning, but he didn't leave until after the fourth. Young recently had an MRI on the same finger. He is listed as day-to-day. Through the first four innings, 19 Tigers had made plate appearances. In the fifth alone, 15 Tigers batted. Magglio Ordonez and Cabrera combined for four hits in the fifth. "It was just one of those games where one thing happened and then one thing after another happened," Nippert said. "Once I started thinking about my mechanics, it all started to fall apart." The inning began innocently enough. Nippert recorded his sixth strikeout of the night, but he would face only three more batters. Luis Mendoza entered in relief of Nippert with one out and the bases loaded. He left under the same circumstances, having faced six batters and retired none of them. "[I struggled just] hitting my spots," Mendoza said. "I left the ball in the middle of the plate too much. I feel great, but I just missed my spots. I threw some good curves and I threw some bad ones." Wes Littleton came in and finally stopped the bleeding, but not before letting in the ninth run of the inning. The Rangers went down in order in the bottom of the fifth inning.
With the odds of a third straight late-inning comeback all but dashed, Bill White was hung out to dry in the sixth inning. He allowed five runs before putting an end to the frame.The lone bright spot on the night for the Rangers came when they used their 55th player this season and 30th different pitcher, right-hander Brian Gordon. The appearance was Gordon's Major League debut, making him the 12th Rangers pitcher to make his debut this season. And he got to make it with his wife and daughter in attendance. "You know what? It was pretty sweet," Gordon said. "I was talking to [pitching coach Andy Hawkins] in batting practice, and he asked if my arm felt good enough to throw an inning. I told him, 'Yeah.'" But after that conversation, the roughest part was the anticipation of when he would get the call. "I was more nervous anticipating when that'd be, and once I got the call, the nerves started to go away," Gordon said. Gordon, who spent the last 12 years bouncing around the Minor Leagues, was an outfielder until the 2007 season. He was called up by the Rangers on Monday after Triple-A Oklahoma's season ended on Sunday. His debut was short but sweet. In an inning of work, he allowed his first Major League hit and then struck out his first Major League batter, getting through the eighth inning with no harm done. "I was definitely pleased," Gordon said. "That's what I wanted to do."
Shawn Shroyer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.