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08/18/07 12:10 AM ET
Rangers 'pen falls to Twins in extras
Wright's wild pitch in 10th scores game-winning run
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Center fielder Marlon Byrd pointed the blame at himself in the Rangers clubhouse afterward. "This one is on my shoulders," Byrd said, talking about going 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position as much as a defensive misplay in the 10th inning. Across the cramped room, starting pitcher Kason Gabbard admitted that he was pitching even though he said he's not 100 percent. "I want to prove to my teammates that I want to go out there and pitch and win the game," Gabbard said. "I'm not 100 percent, but my next start is in Baltimore and I'm going to be ready for it." Finally, after a 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Friday night, there was catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, trying to explain what happened on a wild pitch that brought home the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning. "I should have blocked it," Saltalamacchia said. "The ball just ate me up." It's the middle of August and the Rangers are in last place, but what happened at the Metrodome on Friday night still bothered them deeply and still showed that the fight and the will to win still hangs in there. As manager Ron Washington summed up with the last words of his postgame meeting with the media, "That was one tough loss right there." What happened was that Gabbard fought off the stiffness in his left forearm to give the Rangers 6 2/3 strong innings, but he couldn't get the offensive support needed. Instead, the Rangers went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and ultimately fell victim to the defense in the 10th inning. "We had many chances to win that game and we just didn't do it," Washington said. The Rangers are also just not a good offensive team right now. Since July 27, they are hitting just .199 as a team with runners in scoring position, and the bottom half of the order has been particularly troublesome. Jason Botts, Brad Wilkerson, Nelson Cruz, Byrd and Saltalamacchia are a combined 13-for-85 (.153) with runners in scoring position in that stretch. "It's just not there right now," Washington said. "We're in that mode where we're giving our young players a chance to show what they can do, because they are the best of what we have in our organization. We're just trying to make it through the schedule, gaining confidence and experience and going from there. If that's the way it is, that's the way it is." Saltalamacchia provided the Rangers with their only run with a home run into the upper deck in right field in the third. It was his first home run since being acquired from the Atlanta Braves on July 31. Gabbard, who left his last start after 1 1/3 innings and just five batters because of the stiffness in his left forearm, allowed one run on five hits and three walks. He struck out three while getting 12 of his 20 outs on grounders. "His performance was outstanding," Washington said. "He certainly did what he wanted to do -- change speeds and hit his spots. He certainly gave us what we needed." Gabbard did have an anxious moment with two out in the seventh. He hit Mike Redmond with a pitch, then had his bosses concerned after throwing ball one to Tommy Watkins. At that point, Washington, pitching coach Mark Connor and trainer Jamie Reed came running out of the dugout to check on Gabbard. "He was bending his arm," Washington said. "We wanted to make sure he was fine, and he said he was fine." He wasn't quite fine. Gabbard ended up walking both Watkins and Alexi Casilla to load the bases. "He just lost the strike zone," Washington said. "It happens in the course of the ballgame." Gabbard, who threw 102 pitches, then came out and Jamey Wright, after falling behind 3-0, struck out Nick Punto to end the threat. Wright was still in there in the 10th inning when Punto led off with a fly ball into right-center. "It was a ball I was going after," Byrd said afterward. "I thought I could dive and make the catch. Then, when I realized it was going to drop, I tried to block it with my body." He did, but the ball caromed toward right field. By the time he recovered, Punto had raced to third with what was scored a single and an error. "We want to see him get a single, not something extra," Washington said. "We were being too aggressive. We'll learn." That brought up Joe Mauer, but Wright's first pitch bounced in front of Saltalamacchia and got away from, bringing home the winning run and ending a frustrating night for the Rangers.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.