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04/12/08 12:53 AM ET
Padilla suffers first defeat in opener
Big inning bites right-hander; defense remains a question mark
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- The old adage in baseball for April is this is the time of the year when the "pitchers are ahead of the hitters." In the Rangers' case, make that the pitching is ahead of the defense as well. Texas' hopes for a better defensive team are not quite off to a great start. The Rangers committed three more errors on Friday night, part of their overall uneven defensive play that cost them in an 8-5 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Vicente Padilla took the loss, his first of the year, but this one was on a defense that just looked ragged at times. "It was," manager Ron Washington agreed. "We just didn't play very good behind Vinny." Catcher Gerald Laird and left fielder Frank Catalanotto in particular had rough nights. Laird had two throwing errors and Catalanotto had two tough plays in left. One was an error and the other was a "what if," as in what if he holds on to Vernon Wells' long fly ball in the Blue Jays' four-run fourth? But there were other defensive lapses, most notably when reliever Kazuo Fukumori didn't to cover first base on a grounder in the seventh inning. That was another "what if" the Rangers were left to ponder. "We had some weird plays and the ball took some funny hops, but we've got to make more plays," first baseman Ben Broussard said. "We've got to play cleaner, play better. It's baseball and I don't think anybody is happy. We have to figure it out and get it done." The season is only 10 games old, but the Rangers already lead the league in errors and unearned runs. That shouldn't be cause for alarm at this stage, except the Rangers led both categories last year and better defense was a primary goal for the manager. "We come out to play hard every day," Hank Blalock said. "Baseball is a streaky game. You go through streaks where you kick the ball around and streaks where you play really well." The victory snapped the Blue Jays' three-game losing streak, as they won for only the fourth time in their last 20 games in Arlington. "It wasn't easy," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "It seems like they've always got strong, left-handed power bats here and can strike awful quick. So you never really feel safe." Padilla started off the night on a pretty good streak, retiring the first nine batters he faced. Blalock hit his first home run of the year and the Rangers led, 1-0, going into the fourth. That's when the game turned. David Eckstein and Aaron Hill led off the inning with singles. Padilla struck out Alex Rios, but Vernon Wells followed with a long fly to left. Catalanotto raced back to get his glove on the ball but couldn't hold it. One run scored and the Blue Jays were left with runners at second and third on what was scored a double. "I thought Cat gave a good effort," Washington said. "It hit off his glove, but if he catches that ball, it's an outstanding play. They just strung some hits together that inning. If Cat makes that play, we get out of the inning with one run, maybe no runs. He just didn't come up with it." Instead Padilla walked Matt Stairs, and Lyle Overbay followed with a double down the right-field line that scored three runs and gave the Blue Jays a 4-1 lead. That lead wasn't insurmountable, but the Blue Jays took advantage of Catalanotto's error in the sixth to add an unearned run on catcher Greg Zaun's first career steal of home. The Blue Jays then scored three more in the seventh. Laird's throwing error and Fukumori not covering first base were both critical in that inning. "To do all that and still be in the ballgame ... I just wish we could have gotten through the seventh," Washington said. They didn't. Instead the Rangers trailed, 8-2, and that left them too far behind when Josh Hamilton hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the inning. He also had a sacrifice fly and a run-scoring single, giving him four RBIs on the night.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.