Rangers' mistakes prevent sweep
Feldman pitches well in loss; Smoak slugs first homer
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers failed to get over the late-inning hump once again in Friday's 7-5 loss to the Chicago White Sox.If you're looking for something or someone to blame, good luck. There were defensive breakdowns. Rustiness in a crucial situation from a key reliever who hadn't pitched in a week. And two home runs by the Majors' current leader in dingers, Paul Konerko, given up by two different relievers. The offense gave what was left of a crowd of 17,778 some hope in the bottom of the ninth, putting up two runs, but it wasn't enough as the Rangers wasted a chance to get to the .500 mark for the first time since they were 5-5 on April 16. Instead they'll take a 10-12 record on the road to two American League West cities, Seattle and Oakland. "Two miscues in the seventh did us in," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "And then in the eighth and ninth, Paul Konerko took over."
The Rangers already have lost 10 games this season after holding the lead. Their record fell to 7-5 when leading after six innings.
To put that in perspective, they were 74-6 last year when leading after six innings.The Rangers led, 3-1, entering the seventh inning after getting six strong innings from starter Scott Feldman, who was coming off two poor starts against the New York Yankees and Detroit. Feldman, who had his sinker going, got a ground ball by Alex Rios to start the inning. Shortstop Andres Blanco's throw came in a little low, but still should have been caught by rookie first baseman Justin Smoak. "I thought it was going to short-hop," said Smoak, who also failed to come up with a throw last Friday against Detroit. "I should have gone on and caught it."
"When there's outs to be made, you need to make outs," Washington said.Feldman followed up by walking Mark Kotsay on four pitches, ending the right-hander's day. "That was a bad walk," Feldman said. Washington turned to reliever Darren O'Day, who had been out of action the last week with stiffness in his back. Instead of easing him in, O'Day got the call with the tying runs on base. White Sox veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski greeted O'Day with a single to right to cut the Rangers' lead to 3-2. The White Sox and manager Ozzie Guillen gave up an out when Alexei Ramirez bunted the runners over to second and third. O'Day did get a key out when slumping Juan Pierre popped out to second base. But O'Day walked Gordon Beckham on four pitches, causing Washington to turn to Dustin Nippert. Nippert's second pitch, a curveball, to Andruw Jones skidded in the dirt. Catcher Max Ramirez, starting his first game this season after being called up from Triple-A on Tuesday, couldn't block the pitch, plus he compounded the problem when his throw to Nippert covering home plate went into the Rangers' dugout, allowing Pierzynski to score behind Kotsay for a 4-3 Chicago lead.
"It backed up instead of finishing down," Nippert said of the errant curve. "It's not really what I wanted right there."
Konerko had a solo home run off Nippert in the top of the seventh for a 5-3 lead.
"It was supposed to be a fastball away," Nippert said. "It was a fastball middle up. I totally missed my spot."Konerko added a two-run shot in the ninth off Doug Mathis for his Majors-best 10th long ball of the year. Those turned out to be two key runs. Smoak and Ryan Garko drove in runs in the bottom of the ninth to make it 7-5, and when Craig Gentry beat out a grounder for an infield hit, the Rangers had the tying runs on base. But Joaquin Arias' ground ball to second base ended the comeback attempt against White Sox closer Bobby Jenks. "It was good to see us battle back," Washington said. "We just gave them a cushion."
The Rangers took a 2-0 lead in the third as Julio Borbon tripled and scored on an error, and Josh Hamilton delivered an RBI double. Smoak hit the first home run of his career in the fourth, giving the Rangers a 3-1 lead.
Feldman, who won 17 games last year, gave up only two hits in six-plus innings. He retired nine of the 10 first batters he faced, showing his 2009 form. He allowed a run in the fourth on a sacrifice fly, but came back with a perfect fifth and got a strikeout of Mark Teahen to end the sixth with two men on base."We got Feldman back," Washington said. "I thought he threw the ball very well." Feldman was disappointed in the four walks, but otherwise saw himself taking a positive step forward after failing to get past the fourth inning in his last two starts. What was the secret Thursday? "I just pitched better," he said. The Rangers are trying to find a way to put it all together after showing flashes of being an AL West contender (they were two games behind the A's entering Thursday night). "We've had everyone doing well at times," said third baseman Michael Young, who went 0-for-4 on Thursday. "The biggest thing is consistency."
Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.