Early hole, close call cost Rangers

Early hole, close call cost Rangers

ARLINGTON -- The night started with pitcher Edinson Volquez trying to find home plate with his fastball and curve, and it ended with manager Buck Showalter screaming at home-plate umpire Dale Scott.

In between, the bullpen was brilliant, but the Rangers comeback came up short by one run and one close play at the plate that was hard for all to accept.

"That's a tough one," outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. said quietly. "I don't know what to say. I'd like to say tomorrow's another day, it's part of the game, but I'd be lying. Losing still feels the same as it did when I was 5 years old. It's just I'm too old to cry."

Matthews thought he had tied the game with a two-run single, but instead, Ian Kinsler was called out at home plate by Scott, and the Rangers went down for the eighth time in the last 11 games with a 6-5 loss to the Cleveland Indians at Ameriquest Field in Arlington Saturday night.

The Rangers trailed, 6-0, before their second at-bat as Volquez couldn't get through the second inning. But 7 1/3 scoreless innings by relievers Josh Rupe, Scott Feldman and Rick Bauer allowed the Rangers to almost pull it out in the end.

"It's disappointing to work so hard to back into the game and it comes down to one call that doesn't go our way," catcher Gerald Laird said.

Kinsler was in the middle of everything, including a single in a two-run second inning and a two-run single in the sixth against Indians starter and winner Cliff Lee that made it 6-4.

Laird then started a ninth-inning rally by beating out a leadoff bunt, and Kinsler followed with a double down the third-base line against Indians closer Tom Mastny that gave the Rangers runners on second and third with nobody out.

Nelson Cruz followed with a grounder right at third baseman Andy Marte for the first out, but then Matthews lined a single right. Laird scored and third-base coach Steve Smith waved home Kinsler, challenging Indians right fielder Casey Blake, who has a reputation for a strong throwing arm.

"I'll tell you if I don't send him, I've got 40,000 people yelling at me," Smith said. "It took an absolutely perfect throw, and he still was safe unless [Scott] thought it was a force play."

That was not Scott's explanation. Indians catcher Victor Martinez had the plate blocked, and Kinsler tried to slide around him. Much to the Rangers surprise, Scott said Kinsler never touched home plate and called him out.

"I thought I was safe," Kinsler said. "I thought my foot beat the ball. I couldn't feel him apply the tag. A lot goes on at that plate, but I thought I was safe. That's the bottom line."

"The ball might beat him, but he still has to turn and tag him," said Smith, who had to be restrained by first-base coach Bobby Jones. "That should have been a tie game. If Jones doesn't grab me, they throw me out and suspend me and fine me another five days."

The end was just as frustrating for the Rangers as the beginning. Volquez was making his fifth start since being recalled from the Minor Leagues, and Grady Sizemore hit his third pitch into the right-field seats for a home run. It only got worse.

Jason Michaels singled and, with one out, stole second, going to third on Laird's wild throw. Ryan Garko struck out, but Volquez walked both Blake and Jhonny Peralta to load the bases.

That brought up Kevin Kouzmanoff, who was called up from the Minors on Saturday and was making his Major League debut because Travis Hafner is sidelined with a bruised right hand.

Volquez threw him one pitch, and Kouzmanoff hit it over the center-field fence for a home run, becoming only the third player in history to hit a grand slam in his first Major League at-bat.

"A fastball up," Kouzmanoff said, eloquently describing Volquez's problems. The Rangers' prized rookie right-hander can't get his curve ball over the plate, and he can't get his fastball where he wants it.

"He's wild in the strike zone," Showalter said. "He elevated a lot of balls, and his breaking ball hasn't been very consistent. That's the equalizer."

Volquez, after allowing six runs in 1 2/3 innings, is now 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in five starts with the Rangers, but Showalter said he still plans to send him out there again.

"Fastball command," Volquez said. "I don't know what's going on. I feel confident, I have a lot of confidence, but when you pitch, that's going to happen. You're going to lose, and you're going to win."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.