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09/21/07 1:33 AM ET
Rangers suffer meltdown in opener
Bullpen blows lead in ninth; McCarthy might be shutdown
By Drew Davison / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- After a strong second-half surge, the Rangers are freefalling down the stretch. After a 6-3 loss to the Orioles on Thursday night -- their fourth straight -- the Rangers took an even bigger hit when Brandon McCarthy said there is a "50-50" chance he'll pitch again this season. McCarthy has been battling tendinitis in his right forearm/elbow area the past week, but it didn't seem to bother him on Thursday. McCarthy threw four scoreless innings, allowing five hits with two walks and two strikeouts. The 67-pitch outing was his third start since coming off the disabled list (stress fracture in right shoulder blade) on Sept. 11. After giving up a walk to Tike Redman and a single to Luis Hernandez to start the game, McCarthy got Nick Markakis to ground into a double play and Kevin Millar to ground out to end that early threat. He allowed the leadoff man to reach the following three innings as well, but battled out of those jams untouched. Still, McCarthy didn't seem optimistic about returning before the season ends with his latest malady. McCarthy has already missed nearly two months -- June with a blister on his right middle finger and August with the stress fracture. "Without a doubt, I want to start," McCarthy said. "I've missed two months already. We're going to monitor it, but it's just been one of those years." Depending on how McCarthy responds this week, the Rangers might shut him down. He is scheduled to start two more games before the end of the season, his next being Tuesday against the Angels. "We'll just see how he is," pitching coach Mark Connor said. "If he's able to pitch, he'll pitch on Tuesday. We'll just go day-by-day." It's been a frustrating year for McCarthy, who has not won since July 31 and is 1-6 in 13 outings going back to May 20 -- that was before the blister problem sidelined him for a month. "It's just one of those years, I've never seen something like this," McCarthy said, obviously irritated with his latest injury. "I look forward to the offseason and I don't see this being a problem in the future, hopefully, until I can't even pitch again." It will be a key offseason for McCarthy because the Rangers want him to get bigger, stronger and more durable. McCarthy believes he will, and the Rangers need him to as he goes into next season as one of the front five. While the Rangers salvage what they can from McCarthy's wrecked season, they are getting a good look at Jamey Wright as a reliever. Wright threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings after McCarthy's four innings, allowing just one hit. Since moving to the bullpen, Wright has held hitters to a .225 average. "I took the move to the bullpen a little different this year," Wright said. "I was upset in past years, but I took it as an opportunity this year to solidify myself as a bullpen guy." Wright is a free agent at the end of the season, but manager Ron Washington wants him back with the Rangers. "Of course I do," Washington said. "He's been very valuable, especially out of the bullpen. He's backed off his fastball. He's been doing the job." Joaquin Benoit hasn't been doing the job, however, as he blew his sixth save of the season. Benoit gave up a leadoff double to Melvin Mora in the ninth. Mora eventually scored on Miguel Tejada's single to center to tie the game at 1. As a setup reliever, Benoit has 17 holds this season while holding opponents to a .217 batting average. "I think I got two pitches in the wrong spot and they hit them," Benoit said. "I don't think it's any different [being in the closing role.]" The Orioles continued their late rally in the 10th, scoring five runs off relievers John Rheinecker and Wes Littleton. With two on and no outs, Aubrey Huff hit a grounder to first baseman Brad Wilkerson, who couldn't field the ball and was charged with an error, allowing Markakis to score the go-ahead run. The Orioles padded the lead with four more runs, powered by a three-run homer by Brian Roberts. Baltimore snapped a three-game skid with the win. The first eight innings saw just one run score. Surprising, considering the last time the two teams played -- a doubleheader on Aug. 22 at Camden Yards -- offensive records were set. The Rangers scored 30 runs in the first game and followed with nine runs in the nightcap. The Rangers took an early one-run lead on Thursday in the first against Orioles starter Victor Zambrano. Ian Kinsler was hit by Zambrano's first pitch of the game and stole second, his 21st stolen base this season. Gerald Laird bunted him to third and Kinsler scored on Michael Young's grounder to short. That was the only offensive production McCarthy and the bullpen received, though, as the Rangers were 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position. "Opportunities have been there, we just haven't been able to get that hit," Washington said. "We had opportunities tonight, it just didn't happen."
Drew Davison is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.