09/14/09 12:47 AM ET
Rangers settle for doubleheader split
Game 2 loss puts Texas four games behind in Wild Card
By Todd Wills / Special to MLB.com
The bad news? For the first time in four tries, the Rangers didn't sweep a doubleheader. They did get a split, winning Game 1 behind a sparkling complete-game effort by Tommy Hunter.
But on a day when the teams they are chasing, the Angels and the Red Sox, both won -- Boston swept a doubleheader -- getting shut down, 5-0, by Mariners fireballer Felix Hernandez couldn't have come at a worse time.
For their trouble on Sunday -- most of the team spent 15 or 16 hours at the ballpark Sunday -- the Rangers are now four games behind the Red Sox in the American League Wild Card race and six games behind the Angels in the AL West.
The Rangers have lost two of their past three series and have started to level off with a 13-12 record in their past 25 games. The distance between the Rangers and the teams they're chasing grew over the weekend.
"We've got 20 games to go," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We've got to keep taking care of business. It would have been a different story if we had won two. It's tough to win a doubleheader."
Going for another doubleheader sweep, the nightcap was a mismatch on paper -- Hernandez came in with a 14-5 record and a 2.61 ERA, while Rangers rookie Derek Holland was riding a three-game losing streak in which he had allowed 22 earned runs in 12 1/3 innings.
Oh, and sometimes you play games on paper. Hernandez made it 16 starts this season in which he has given up a run or less. Holland had good stuff and said he threw most of his pitches where he wanted while challenging hitters but still allowed five runs and eight hits in six innings.
"He competed well," Washington said. "His opponents were just better. They got their first three runs on good pitches."
Holland came in saying he was going to go after hitters, and he ended up with mixed results. He dazzled with back-to-back strikeouts of Mike Sweeney and Adrian Beltre in the third. And after helping Ichiro Suzuki make baseball history with his ninth straight 200-hit season -- Ichiro singled in the second -- Holland struck out the Japanese star in the fourth, tying him up with a fastball.
Holland also left pitches in the middle of the plate, like the changeup Beltre slammed into the left-field seats for a two-run home run and a 5-0 lead with two outs in the top of the fifth.
"That changeup had some cut on it for some reason," Holland said. "I probably needed to get more over the top on it."
The offense didn't help Holland out in the early innings, twice stranding a runner at third base with one out. You can't do that against Hernandez and expect to beat him.
Ian Kinsler and Marlon Byrd struck out with Elvis Andrus at third in the first inning. Julio Borbon grounded out to first and Andrus struck out to strand Taylor Teagarden 90 feet away in the third. Get those two runs and the Rangers would have been tied with Hernandez and Seattle instead of trailing, 2-0.
"He gave us two opportunities in the first and third and we didn't cash them in," Washington said. "If we get those runs, he might have tightened up a little bit."
Game 2 was a kind of downer considering what the Rangers' other rookie starter on Sunday, Hunter, managed to do.
Hunter pitched the first complete game of his career, improving his record to 8-3. Hunter had allowed nine earned runs in his past 12 1/3 innings before Sunday's start, but unlike Holland, he was able to rebound with a strong outing.
He used his curveball and changeup to keep Seattle hitters off-balance. He allowed five singles and a double. He threw only 102 pitches and had four innings when his pitch count was in single digits, allowing him to come back out in the ninth inning for the first complete game by a Rangers rookie since Rick Helling did it back in 1994.
Hunter was backed by three home runs in the opener. Chris Davis, David Murphy and Nelson Cruz did the damage.
Davis had a solo shot in the second inning to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead. Murphy had a solo shot down the left-field line in the bottom of the fifth to extend the lead to 5-1. And Nelson Cruz hit one off the foul pole in right field to make it 7-1.
Hunter said he never got any indication that Washington and pitching coach Mike Maddux weren't going to let him go for the complete game.
"I don't think he got up off the bench," Hunter said on whether Washington considered taking him out after eight innings. "Mike came down and told me I was going back out there. "It was fun. I started thinking about it later in the game [a complete game]. It's something you want to do."
Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.