Lindblom eats innings, can't limit Orioles' offense
Spot start helps give bullpen some rest; Rangers bats cool down
BALTIMORE -- The Rangers rotation is bleeding, and Josh Lindblom couldn't staunch the wound on Wednesday night.
Lindblom, thrust into a starting assignment because of the many injuries that have hit the rotation, instead allowed six runs in 5 1/3 innings in a 6-1 loss to the Orioles at Camden Yards.
Lindblom made this start in place of Nick Tepesch, who is on the disabled list with inflammation in his right elbow. He was chosen over Ross Wolf, who the Rangers wanted to keep in the bullpen. But Wolf is now starting on Thursday night in place of Yu Darvish, who went on the disabled list Wednesday with a strained trapezius muscle in his right shoulder.
Darvish is the latest victim of the pox on the rotation. Derek Holland is the only one of five starters on the Opening Day rotation who is not on the disabled list. The Rangers have had 12 pitchers make at least seven starts for them combined over the past two seasons. Six of them are on the DL, and those six have combined to start 131 of the Rangers 252 games in 2012-13. This is why the Rangers are surveying the trade market with a particular interest in Cubs starter Matt Garza.
"The game of baseball is all about challenges," manager Ron Washington said. "Those who succeed are the ones who rise to meet those challenges. There aren't any excuses, you still have to go out and play baseball. My team has had to fight and battle and we're still playing good baseball. You've got to give credit to these young pitchers who have come up and fought.
"The experience they're getting is invaluable and is going to pay off down the line. They've won some games and are part of the reason why we are where we are."
The Rangers are in second place in the American League West behind the Athletics and still lead the AL Wild Card standings. But they had a three-game winning streak come to an end, including two straight over the Orioles, who needed this one.
"I don't know that it was a do-or-die night, but when you're playing somebody who's up in the standings, it's never too early to look beyond that, too," Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts said. "When you're playing head to head, you need to get wins against teams that are right there with you or ahead of you, so I think tonight was important, for sure."
Lindblom is in his first season as a starter after being used mostly as a reliever in his five-year professional career. He has been terrific at Triple-A, going 7-0 with a 1.99 ERA in 10 starts and one relief appearance. But he hasn't had the same success at the Major League level.
Instead, he is now 0-3 with a 6.33 ERA in five starts for the Rangers. In 27 innings, he has allowed 34 hits and nine walks.
"I gave up six runs tonight, but my three starts before that, I felt I kept my team in the game," Lindblom said. "As a starter, that's all you want to do is give your team a chance to win."
Wednesday night was the last time he'll start before the All-Star break, and he may not be in the rotation when the second half begins. The Rangers are hoping both Darvish and Alexi Ogando will be ready to come off the disabled list.
Maybe they can do for the Rangers what Wei-Yin Chen did for the Orioles. Chen came off the disabled list on Wednesday night after being out two months with a strained ribcage muscle and held the Rangers to one run in seven innings. He allowed just three hits, walked three and struck out four.
"As he got deeper in the game, you could see he was laboring a little bit," Washington said. "But the guy had a pretty good fastball that he moved around and a breaking ball and a changeup. He threw the ball well. He hadn't pitched in awhile, but it certainly didn't look like it out there."
Lindblom made it through two scoreless innings before giving up two in the third. Nate McLouth reached on a one-out infield single by beating Lindblom to first base on a grounder to Mitch Moreland. Manny Machado brought him home with a triple and later scored on a wild pitch.
Lindblom got himself in trouble in the fourth by walking Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy to start the inning. Brian Roberts followed with a blast to deep center that took Engel Beltre back to the wall. Beltre tried to make a leaping catch for a ball that was headed over the fence, but he only succeeded in knocking it back into the field of play.
It went for a long single that scored Wieters and left runners on the corners. The umpires even reviewed the play, but they let the single stand. It didn't matter. Nolan Reimold hit Lindblom's next pitch over the left-field wall for a three-run home run.
"Those four runs ... that was the ballgame," Lindblom said. "Each of those walks ... any time guys get on base without having to work for it, it will end up killing you. I thought I went after them, but there were a couple borderline pitches."