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06/12/07 11:22 PM ET
Millwood pulled early as Bucs pull away
Right-hander allows five earned runs over 4 1/3 innings
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- Here's a category in which the Rangers do have a winning record.
They are five games over .500 when they score first in a game.
Their problem is that's happened just 21 times in 64 games and they are 13-8 in those games. But they are 10-33 when the opposing team scores first and that's happened more than twice as much as the other scenario.
That's what happened on Tuesday night when starter Kevin Millwood gave up three runs in the first inning and the Rangers went on to lose to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 7-5, in their Interleague clash at PNC Park.
The loss was the Rangers' first in seven regular-season games against the Pirates in club history.
The Rangers' problems with letting the opposition score first is just another side effect of the troubles their starting pitching is going through and Millwood ended up giving up six runs in 4 1/3 innings.
He is now 2-6 with a 7.82 ERA on the year and at a complete loss for what has easily been the worst stretch in his distinguished career.
"I don't know," Millwood said. "I don't know what I need to do. I'm kind of lost right now. I'm trying to do everything I can to figure it out and turn things in a good direction. It's not working."
Millwood pretty much missed an entire month because of a hamstring injury, but insisted that his problems are not physical.
"I feel fine," Millwood said. "My legs are good. My arm is good. I'm just not pitching good."
Manager Ron Washington said Millwood's problem is not being able to throw his pitches where he wants them to go.
"Location," Washington said. "It's just his location. He has good velocity ... you need good location up here. He's healthy. There's nothing wrong with him. The ball is coming out of his hand the same but he's missing his location."
"His velocity was there," Pirates outfielder Jason Bay said. "He was still throwing the ball in the low-90s when he wanted to. I don't know what it is. I know he's had success in the American League before, but that's a good question. He's too good to struggle forever."
Millwood was the Rangers' Opening Day starter for two straight seasons, but his most notable distinction right now is he has the highest ERA on the staff. That's quite stunning on a team whose starting rotation's ERA is 6.92.
The other stunning thing about the Rangers is that Millwood won 16 games for them last year and Vicente Padilla won 15, but they're 6-17 so far this season when their front two pitchers take the mound.
"That makes it awfully difficult," Washington said. "But they're only human. It's nice to ride somebody when they are good but nobody wants to do well more than them. They're both healthy. You got to stay with them. We're not going to take the ball away from them as long as they're healthy."
Millwood's biggest problem on Tuesday was giving up leadoff home runs to start an inning. He did that three times in five innings, beginning with the first batter he faced, and that was symptomatic of his location problems.
"All of those balls were up," Millwood said. "I wasn't getting the ball where I wanted."
Millwood started the night by throwing two balls to Jose Bautista. Then he left a 2-0 fastball above the belt and Bautista crushed it over the left-field wall and the bleachers for a leadoff home run.
Millwood got two outs but couldn't escape the inning without further damage. Jason Bay singled with two out and scored on a double by Adam LaRoche into the right-field corner. Xavier Nady's single made it 3-0 before the Rangers could come up for a second time.
"Tonight, his curveball wasn't working," LaRoche said of Millwood. "That's one of his best pitches and when it's on, that's tough. When you can eliminate that as a hitter, cause he's not getting it over, it makes that fastball a little easier to hit. He wasn't hitting his spot, leaving a lot of pitches over the plate. We took advantage of it."
The Rangers have now been outscored 48-20 in the first inning, this marked the 28th game they have been behind two or more runs to start and game and, ultimately, it was the 26th game in which they have trailed by at least five runs. They've only played 64.
But Washington said, "When it was 3-0, I wasn't worried. I knew it would take more than three runs to beat us. If we could have gotten through those middle innings, it might have been different."
Instead the Rangers trailed 6-0 after five innings and a late-inning rally came up short. They got behind too fast and too much and that's been the story of their season.