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07/06/07 12:56 AM ET
Tejeda progresses, but Rangers fall
Right-hander outmatched by Angels pitching
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers watched a pitcher with great stuff work on Thursday. They watched him combine great stuff with good mechanics, good location and good pitch selection to put together seven dominating innings on Thursday night. Robinson Tejeda? They wish. The best that could be said for him was that he made progress. Angels right-hander Kelvim Escobar was the one who was at the top of his game, holding the Rangers to one run in seven innings in a 5-2 victory at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Tejeda, allowing four runs in 5 1/3 innings, was no match for that and the Rangers were unable to complete a three-game sweep. They still took two of three and have won 10 of 15 going into a three-game series with the Baltimore Orioles that will close out the first half. "If we keep winning series, maybe we'll run off four or five in a row," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Playing teams like Detroit, Boston and Anaheim, you're not going to sweep those teams. You'd like to, but they've got too much firepower and at some point one of their pitchers are going to step up and do their job." Escobar did that, holding the Rangers to three hits and three walks and is now 10-3 with a 3.19 ERA. Tejeda is now 5-8 with a 6.70 ERA, which is the highest in the American League among qualifying pitchers. Yet this was marginally better than his last eight starts when he was 1-4 with a 9.51 ERA and that's what the Rangers were clinging to afterward. The game was 1-1 until the Angels scored two in the fifth and two in the sixth to seize control. "I thought he was doing pretty good," Washington said. "He was facing a pretty good guy and he was matching him with zeros up until the [fifth] inning. I was very encouraged. He threw the ball in the strike zone and kept the ball in play. He turned the corner as far as I was concerned. He kept us in the game, we just couldn't do anything with Escobar." Tejeda still walked three, one in the first and two in the sixth, and two of those came around to score. He's still erratic with his delivery, changing it almost from pitch to pitch, but the Rangers remain hopeful he can still be the guy who was 3-1 with a 3.82 ERA in his first five starts of the season. "Statistically this was better," pitching coach Mark Connor said. "He got us into the sixth, but those two walks hurt. We were hoping he could get us through the sixth and keep it close, but he made some pitches when he had to. Hopefully it's a step in the right direction and he'll come out of this with a little confidence." Said catcher Gerald Laird: "He definitely threw the ball better. He was being aggressive in the strike zone a lot better than the last few outings, throwing fastball, and that's the key for him, he's got to hit with his fastball. He was coming at those guys tonight." Tejeda said he felt more comfortable on the mound Thursday than he has been in awhile. "I was attacking, getting ahead of hitters and hitting the strike zone," Tejeda said. "My changeup was working well, so was my slider and I had pretty good control of my fastball. I feel much better. If I can continue this feeling, I'll get everything back and win more games." It will be awhile before he pitches again, maybe as much as 12 days. The Rangers might not need him until July 17 in Oakland and one option is to send him to the Minors for one start during the All-Star break before bringing him back to the Major Leagues. He was the Rangers' best starter at the end of April, but he may have slipped back to the end of the rotation as they approach the All-Star break. Connor said the hero of the night was reliever Ron Mahay, who took over for Tejeda and pitched 3 2/3 innings. The Rangers still didn't win, but Mahay kept them from dipping into and depleting a bullpen that is already short with Akinori Otsuka sidelined. "He kept us from using guys we didn't want to use," Connor said.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.