Rangers fall as division lead dwindles to one game
Lineup limited by Twins to two solo homers in rubber match
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers' lead in the American League West was cut in half Sunday in a rocky start to the final month of the regular season. Texas squandered an opportunity to maintain its two-game cushion over the A's by dropping the rubber match to the Twins, 4-2, at Rangers Ballpark.
Texas now holds a one-game lead against Oakland before the two teams meet for a three-game series Monday, as the A's defeated the Rays, 5-1. The Rangers lost ground to the A's in their two losses to Minnesota over the last three days. Texas has lost its last three series to the Mariners, White Sox and now the Twins, all teams below .500 and virtually out of the playoff chase.
"It was a frustrating series," Ian Kinsler said. "We didn't do what we wanted to do. That's it. It's over with and time to move on."
The Rangers scored six runs for just the third time this season in a series of three games or more at Rangers Ballpark. Prior to this season, that feat happened just six times in the first 19 seasons at Rangers Ballpark.
"I wish I could explain it," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of the offensive inconsistencies. "I think this series here, you've got to explain it by how the Minnesota Twins pitched."
Mitch Moreland provided the only run off starter Kevin Correia on an opposite-field home run in the third to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Texas collected just five hits in seven innings off Correia, who earned his second win in as many starts against the Rangers this season.
"This series hadn't gone like we thought it would, but that's part of the game," Moreland said. "You're going to have your ups-and-downs. We're going to come back tomorrow and try to win the opener."
Travis Blackley didn't get past the fifth inning in his third start with Texas. Jurickson Profar's throwing error on a possible double play allowed a runner to advance to second with one out. The Twins scored three runs in the inning after the error, starting with Josmil Pinto's RBI double, his first big league hit, to tie the game at 1.
The southpaw left the game after an RBI single to Alex Presley to give the Twins a 3-1 lead. Blackley lasted just 4 1/3 innings allowing three runs on eight hits.
"I just kept trying to stick to the game plan, trying to get them to hit it and it fell their way," Blackley said. "I'm more so disappointed I couldn't go deeper. They made me work today, and it was pretty tough conditions. It just kind of fell their way."
The bullpen held the Twins to just a run for the rest of the game on a poor decision from Kinsler, who tried to make a tough throw to first with two outs in the eighth, but he allowed a runner to score from second. Neftali Feliz relieved Blackley and threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings in his return from Tommy John surgery.
"I felt really comfortable on the mound today," Feliz said. "I tried to use every pitch and get a good result. I'm happy to be in the bullpen, to help the team to win and help the team to the playoffs this year."
A.J. Pierzynski started a rally in the eighth on a pinch-hit solo home run to right field that trimmed the deficit to 4-2. The inning ended on Kinsler's groundout to shortstop with Leonys Martin at third base. The Rangers were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
"You can't score 15 runs every game," Kinsler said. "That's not how this game works. You have to be on top of your game every day. This league is not easy, so you have to be prepared to play good baseball every day."
Texas will now travel to Oakland with first place in the American League West on the line. The Rangers are 8-5 against the A's and have won three of the last four series. Monday marks the first of six games between the two teams in September.
"There's no crystal ball with what's going to happen, but you try to win the game tomorrow and see what happens after that," Pierzynski said. "Tomorrow is the biggest game of the year, then every day after that continues to be the same."