CLEVELAND -- The Rangers' bullpen has been an enigma for much of the season, and Monday's game against the Indians only left it with more question marks.After starter Cole Hamels was pulled without recording an out in the sixth inning, the Texas 'pen failed to preserve a tie game and
CLEVELAND -- The Rangers' bullpen has been an enigma for much of the season, and Monday's game against the Indians only left it with more question marks.
After starter Cole Hamels was pulled without recording an out in the sixth inning, the Texas 'pen failed to preserve a tie game and then promptly lost a late lead en route to a 7-5 loss to the Indians at Progressive Field.
Up a run in the eighth with their top setup man pitching, the Rangers seemed in prime position to take the series opener over the Tribe. Chris Martin had only given up a run twice in his last 12 outings, but he ran into trouble quickly with Rajai Davis' leadoff single.
After getting Roberto Perez to pop up a bunt, Bradley Zimmer reached on an infield single, and Francisco Lindor drove home the tying run. Two batters later, Jose Ramirez came through in the clutch with an RBI double to take the lead, and Martin exited with a right forearm cramp. The Rangers turned to Jesse Chavez to stop the bleeding, but he allowed both baserunners to score on Yonder Alonso's single to left.
"It was tough in the eighth, especially to have Martin walk off the mound with some forearm cramping," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "You had a situation where we felt like once we had the lead there, the one-run lead, we got the guy we wanted in there in the eighth, and it just got away from us."
The Rangers' bullpen came into Monday's game with a 4.24 ERA that ranked 18th in baseball, and the five runs allowed ballooned that number to 4.58. Among its six relievers that have appeared in double-digit games, only closer Keone Kela has an ERA under 4.50.
The Rangers offense had its chances, even with three All-Stars missing from their lineup. After being limited to three hits and nine strikeouts through the first six frames, Texas was able to scrap together a late lead off a tiring Trevor Bauer and vulnerable Indians bullpen. Robinson Chirinos homered on Bauer's 122nd pitch to tie the game, 2-2, and the Rangers added a pair of extra runs in the top of the eighth on back-to-back doubles from Jurickson Profar and Nomar Mazara.
But each time the Rangers scored, they couldn't hold the Indians back. Texas took its first lead in the fourth on Joey Gallo's RBI groundout, but Ramirez scored on an error in the bottom of the frame. In response to Chirinos' home run, Ramirez drove in an RBI single off Alex Claudio. And things completely unwound for the Rangers after taking a one-run lead in the eighth inning.
The Rangers put together a final rally in the ninth, as they pushed Indians closer Cody Allen to 41 pitches. Mazara knocked in a run on an infield single to bring the deficit to two runs, but Gallo struck out to end the game as the potential go-ahead run.
"There were some solid at-bats," Banister said. "We made their closer work. We felt like if we could keep it within range, we were going to have an opportunity there in the ninth, which we did. I'm proud of the way our guys went up to bat."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Hamels was able to avoid any big innings by holding the Indians to just one frame with multiple hits, and he almost got out of the fifth inning unscathed. With runners on first and second, Hamels left a fastball up over the plate that Jason Kipnis drove to deep center field -- but Zimmer decided to tag up at second instead of advancing. That caused an odd situation where the trail runner, Lindor, was a step behind Zimmer when the ball hit off the wall, and Lindor went to take third, which forced Zimmer home. However, Zimmer just barely beat the tag -- which was upheld after a managerial challenge.
"When you have a game this close, you don't want to leave something down the middle," Hamels said. "There's definitely no room for error, so I was being cautious around that time of the game. If I was going to miss, I was going to miss with a ball as opposed to something down the middle because they are a team that can really hit the ball hard."
Martin left the game with a right forearm cramp after facing six batters in the eighth inning. He said the cramping got worse throughout the outing and kept him from throwing as hard as he wanted, leading to a season-high four runs allowed.
Martin said that the cramping went away after the game, and he is considered day to day after meeting with the training staff. They will reevaluate him tomorrow when he comes back to the park.
HE SAID IT
"Throwing wild pitches is not something I usually do. It's a tough part, especially when you do strike a guy out, as tough a hitter as Ramirez is. You're kind of jumping for joy that I was able to strike him out, but you see that type of result, and it's tough." -- Hamels, on giving up a run in the fifth inning without allowing a hit
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Rangers prematurely ended the Indians' fourth-inning rally with some help from the replay booth. With runners on first and second with one down, Brandon Guyer grounded a ball to third baseman Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who threw to second baseman Drew Robinson. However, Robinson began to come off the bag on the transfer and lost the ball -- negating any chance of an inning-ending double play.
The initial call was that Robinson did not have possession of the ball while touching the bag, but after a 2-minute, 17-second review, the umpires overturned the ruling, saying that Robinson did indeed maintain control of the baseball while still touching the base. A run still scored on the play, but Hamels got out of the inning one batter later on a groundout.
Doug Fister will take on a familiar opponent when he makes his fifth start of the season on Tuesday vs. the Indians at 5:10 p.m. CT. The right-hander faced the Tribe three times last July and August while pitching for the Red Sox, holding Cleveland to a 3.42 ERA over 21 innings including a one-hit complete game. Fister will match up against the emerging Mike Clevinger.
Ben Weinrib is a contributor to MLB.com.