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09/10/08 9:45 PM ET
Rangers' four homers not enough
Texas eliminated from division race with loss to Mariners
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- As shortstop Michael Young said in the clubhouse afterward, the Rangers have known this was coming for a while. "It's not like two days ago we were expecting Anaheim to break out a 20-game losing streak and we'll win 20 in a row," Young said. That was about their only hope, and hope officially came to an end Wednesday afternoon when Young struck out against Mariners reliever J.J. Putz, leaving the Rangers with an 8-7 loss at Safeco Field. Farther down on the Pacific Coast, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim had already beaten the Yankees and were patiently waiting for the Rangers to finish. When it was over, the Rangers had been officially eliminated from the American League West. The Rangers have now gone nine years since their last division title. Technically, the Rangers could still win the Wild Card race, but that's probably mathematically impossible, too, because of the number of teams they have to pass. So right now they're playing for second place in a division where three teams offered little resistance. The Angels are now leading the Rangers by 17 1/2 games in the West. The Rangers, at 71-75, have 16 games left and must go 10-6 to avoid their eighth losing season in the last nine years. "I feel good that we're capable of getting up to .500 or a little over if we play the last few games out like we are capable of playing," manager Ron Washington said. The Rangers knew all along the Angels were going to be tough to run down in the division. Even when the Rangers were a season-high six games over .500 on Aug. 5, they were still 10 1/2 games behind the Angels. But instead of making a run, Texas has lost 21 of 32 games. "We started off the season really bad, played good up to the break and after the break we played like we started," pitcher Kevin Millwood said. "Those guys played well all year. It's to be expected." Millwood was hoping for a strong finish to the season, but he struggled Wednesday and lost for the second straight start. He allowed seven runs in five-plus innings on 11 hits and two walks. Two of the runs were unearned off errors by catcher Taylor Teagarden and first baseman Hank Blalock. "It looked like Millwood was a little sluggish in the beginning," Washington said. "The first three innings, if we made some plays we should have made, it might have made a difference. But we were still in it when he left the game." Millwood had particular trouble with the top of the Mariners' order. Ichiro Suzuki, Yuniesky Betancourt and Raul Ibanez were a combined 10-for-14 with five runs scored on the afternoon. They helped the Mariners forge a 4-0 lead through four innings. A pair of two-run home runs, by Nelson Cruz and Teagarden, tied it at 4, but the Mariners scored two more off Millwood in the bottom of the inning. Again the Rangers tied it in the sixth on a two-run home run by Blalock. But Millwood's afternoon came to an end when Suzuki and Betancourt led off the sixth with singles. Kameron Loe took over. but Ibanez singled to center to give the Mariners the lead. They added another run off Loe in the seventh, leaving the Rangers needing another two-run home run to tie it. Chris Davis did hit a monster shot off the second deck in right field in the eighth for his 15th home run of the season. But there was nobody on base, and the Rangers came up short. "We're still playing hard," Young said. "We lost today, but we battled back. We kept scoring runs, but we couldn't push one more across at the end." Millwood, going up against a parade of seven relievers used out of the Seattle bullpen, took the loss and is now 9-9 with a 5.15 ERA on the season. "It just wasn't good, I don't know what else to say," Millwood said. "I thought I made some good pitches but not enough of them." That pretty much sums up the division race for the Rangers. They had their moments but ultimately weren't good enough. "It's definitely tough," Young said. "I would have loved to have taken it right where we were at the break and carried it deep into September and played it out. But we were hit with injuries; the Angels played well and ran away with it. They played great baseball all year long. They deserved it."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.