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Rangers fall after Nathan stumbles in ninth

Rangers fall after Nathan stumbles in ninth

ARLINGTON -- Rangers closer Joe Nathan struck out Cody Ross and retired Will Middlebrooks on a popout. He needed just one more out from the bottom of the Red Sox's order to take a 1-1 game into the bottom of the ninth.

Instead he picked a bad time to lose his command. He walked Daniel Nava and pinch-hitter Jarrod Saltalamacchia, then gave up a soft line-drive single to No. 9 hitter Mike Aviles. That drove home the winning run and gave the Red Sox a 2-1 victory over the Rangers on Tuesday at the Ballpark in Arlington.

"It was a nail-biter game, one of those games where one mistake could hurt you," infielder Michael Young said.

Nathan said that one mistake was walking Nava with two outs and the bases empty.

"Everything was sharp until Nava," Nathan said. "I can't walk him. Saltalamacchia is swinging the bat pretty good, so you don't want to give in there and have him hit one in the gap. I'd rather take my chances with Aviles. Even though you put the winning run in scoring position, it's still right on right. If you make pitches, more times than not you get him out. The walk to Nava was the one that hurt. You have to make him hit his way on."

Nava had never faced Nathan before. Aviles had and was 2-for-4 against Nathan going into their ninth-inning encounter.

"When he was with the Twins, I saw him quite a bit over there, pitching against us with the Royals," Aviles said. "I know what he has in his repertoire, but he's still nasty. I think sometimes it pays to be a little bit lucky, I guess."

Aviles worked the count full and then got enough of an outside slider to lift it just over shortstop Elvis Andrus and into left field for a single that drove home Nava.

"The pitch would have been a ball if he didn't swing," Nathan said. "Instead he got enough of it to find the outfield grass."

"I was hoping," Aviles said. "I know I hit it off the end of the bat, but I also know I had a good bat in my hand. I was just hoping it got enough to get over. I didn't really want to play extra innings, so as soon as I hit it, I was literally inside of my head just blowing, just hoping that the ball got over his head."

It did, and the Rangers went down on a night when they received a terrific six innings from rookie left-hander Martin Perez. Pressed into service after Colby Lewis went down for the season with a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow, Perez allowed just one run on five hits, two walks and one strikeout while throwing 98 pitches.

Perez, who was left with a no-decision, will likely either go into the Rangers' bullpen or back to Triple-A Round Rock because Roy Oswalt is ready to return to the rotation. But Perez has a 4.26 ERA after his first three starts and two relief appearances in the Major Leagues.

"He did an excellent job," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He had to battle a little bit early but he competed. That's what he did -- he competed. I'm very happy with what he did tonight."

The Rangers just didn't do much with Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz either, managing just one run on four hits and three walks through seven innings. The Rangers finished the night 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

"His cut fastball was good and he threw a lot of strikes," Young said. "That was pretty much it. He has good stuff. He threw well."

Buchholz took a shutout into the sixth before the Rangers tied it up. Andrus doubled with one out, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Josh Hamilton's slow grounder past Buchholz.

That was it for the Rangers' offense on a night when second baseman Ian Kinsler was ejected in the first inning after Buchholz picked him off first base. Infielder Alberto Gonzalez and pinch-hitter Brandon Snyder spent the rest of the night at the top of the lineup.

"We still had to play a baseball game," Washington said. "We still battled and we still had a chance to win it ... and we didn't."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger.
Read More: Texas Rangers, Martin Perez, Joe Nathan