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09/20/09 5:42 PM ET
Rangers' pitching struggles in defeat
Starter Holland cedes three homers as Texas falls 7 1/2 back
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- It's over. The Rangers' homestand, that is. A homestand that the Rangers knew was going to be the biggest of the season came to a crashing end that was just as disappointing as the way it started. With one last chance to make the Angels squirm at least a little bit, the Rangers instead let a 5-3 lead after five innings slip away in a 10-5 loss on Sunday afternoon at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The Rangers, after going 2-7 on the homestand, are now 7 1/2 games behind the Angels in the American League West. There are just 14 games left in the season. The Angels magic number is seven. By the way, the Rangers are eight games behind the Red Sox in the AL Wild Card race. "We knew this could make or break us, and that's what it was," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "We didn't play well. Everybody knows what happened the last nine games. We're not mathematically out of it, but our chances aren't very good." A 7-2 homestand would have left the Rangers 1 1/2 games behind the Angels. Instead, they lost three consecutive series at home for the first time this season after losing two of three to the Angels. The Rangers were outscored, 48-19, on the homestand, and their offense hit .204. They hit .152 with runners in scoring position. "We knew it would be a battle," Marlon Byrd said. "We knew we had to win some games in a row, and maybe something crazy would happen. But we keep falling back. We were hoping the Angels would hit a losing streak or Boston [would] hit a losing streak, and [then we could] see what happens. But they're both good teams. It just didn't happen." The five runs were the second most the Rangers scored in the homestand. They had a 3-0 lead after one inning and a two-run lead going into the sixth. But rookie left-hander Derek Holland couldn't hold it and ended up suffering his fifth straight loss. Holland is now 7-12 with a 6.17 ERA on the season. Since World War II, only 20 rookies have pitched at least 100 innings in the Major Leagues and finished with an ERA over six runs a game. "I feel fine; I just let everybody down," Holland said. "It was a big game for us. I'm not happy at all at not doing my job." The home run continues to hurt Holland. He gave up three more on Sunday and has now allowed 25 on the season, the most ever by a Rangers rookie. His 1.77 home runs per nine innings is the fourth-highest rate by any Rangers pitcher with at least 100 innings pitched in a season. "I don't know why he's prone to the home run ball," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "If we did, we'd stop it. Sometimes, he makes bad pitches in the wrong spot. He's not a 3-4-5 year pitcher; he's a young kid. The guy is in a learning process." Holland pitched a three-hit shutout in his previous outing against the Angels on Aug. 9 in Anaheim. "[Holland] wasn't quite as crisp as when he pitched against us in Anaheim," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "That game he pitched in Southern California was as good a game as we've had pitched against us all year. The last couple outings, he's been struggling a little. Holland, sitting on a 4-2 lead, gave up a solo home run to Juan Rivera in the fourth. He was leading, 5-3, in the sixth when the Angels tied it on a two-run home run by Howie Kendrick. Two batters later, Gary Matthews Jr.'s home run gave the Angels the lead for good. Washington had right-hander Neftali Feliz warmed up in the bullpen, but wanted Matthew, a switch-hitter, to bat right-handed against Holland. Matthews entered the game hitting .184 from the right side. But this was not a homestand where things went right for the Rangers, and the final day proved to be no different. "Going into the sixth inning, we had momentum," Washington said. "After the sixth inning, we couldn't shut them down. ... Was it devastating? That's a harsh word. We played a pretty good team over there. They won the game. We didn't win the game. They won the game." The Rangers left Texas on Sunday afternoon bound for Oakland to open a four-game series with the Athletics on Monday. The Angels go home for three games with the Yankees, who have the best record in baseball. The Rangers still have four games left with the Angels in the final week of the season. There is still a sliver of hope, but it could have been much more than that with a better homestand. "We've still got a lot of games left," Washington said. "They may go on a losing streak. We may continue to play good baseball and go on a winning streak. We may get to Anaheim and have it decided there. They haven't put an X by our name yet."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.