ARLINGTON -- Rangers right-hander José Leclerc had been pitching extremely well the past month, so manager Chris Woodward was not going to let one unfortunate outing change his feelings toward his reliever.
Leclerc gave up a two-run home run to Marcus Semien in the top of the ninth that proved to be the difference in a 5-3 loss to the Athletics, but Woodward found other factors to be frustrated with on Friday night at Globe Life Park.
More irksome -- besides the gnats that started swarming all over the field around the sixth inning -- was a 1-for-10 night with runners in scoring position for Rangers hitters. That included two bases-loaded, one-out situations in the seventh and ninth innings in which the Rangers failed to score any runs.
“Yeah, it was pretty frustrating, especially when we have a doubleheader tomorrow, and there's a couple of guys down,” Woodward said. “Our pitching did a really good job. There was opportunity after opportunity, even right from the beginning of the game.”
The Rangers also continued their discouraging tendency to lose the first game of a series. This was the first of a four-game series against the Athletics that includes a day-night doubleheader on Saturday.
The Rangers are now 5-15 in the first game of a series this season, including 3-8 in Arlington. They have come back to win seven of those series, including each of the first two on this homestand against Kansas City and Baltimore.
“It is frustrating because we had a chance at the end to tie the game,” outfielder Delino DeShields said. “That’s all you can ask for. We didn’t give up and we don’t quit. They got away with one, but we’ll have a short-term memory and come back tomorrow.”
Leclerc, in a tie game, started the ninth inning by striking out Mark Canha before Jurickson Probar, batting left-handed, bounced a grounder off the end of the bat down the third-base line. The Rangers were shifted the other way, the ball barely stayed fair and Profar turned it into a double. Leclerc retired Josh Phegley on a fly to center but Semien, a right-handed hitter, went opposite field on a 98 mph fastball and just got it over the right-field wall for a home run.
“Pitchers are gonna give up homers,” Woodward said. “I'm not worried about that at all. I felt like his command was good. He's throwing strikes, and like I said, the cue ball down the third-base line. It's ridiculous to even be concerned about that. The homer? He challenged a guy, and the guy hit it. Semien's a good hitter. I know he's hurt us in the past, but it's not that easy to hit 98 middle-away, but he hit it.”
The Rangers, who scored all their runs in the sixth, almost pulled it out in the end, loading the bases with one out in the ninth against Athletics closer Blake Treinen. The Rangers had Elvis Andrus at the plate, but Treinen got him to hit a hard grounder at third baseman Matt Chapman, who was able to start a game-ending double play.
The Rangers had bases loaded with one out in the seventh as well, but reliever Yusmeiro Petit struck out Logan Forsythe and retired Andrus on a fly to center to end the inning.
Forsythe was also involved in a strange play in the fourth against Oakland starter Brett Anderson. He was on second and Nomar Mazara was on first with one out when Hunter Pence hit a grounder at first baseman Matt Olson. Anderson dropped the throw from Olson while covering first and the ball rolled away from him. Forsythe rounded third hard, thought about going home, then put on the brakes. But he slipped, fell and ended up getting tagged out in a rundown. The rally died.
“I know Logan slipped on that play, but late in the game, seventh, eighth, and ninth, we had opportunities to either take the lead or tie it,” Woodward said. “We just didn't get it done. Obviously, the guy made a good pitch at the end. Elvis hit it hard, but that guy's a ground-ball pitcher. Unfortunately, it was right to Chapman.”