The Rangers, who are 14-0 when leading after six innings this year, took a two-run lead going into the top of the sixth. But the Boston Red Sox scored five off of Vicente Padilla and Joaquin Benoit that inning and rallied for a 7-4 victory at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
The five-run rally came right after the Rangers had scored three in the bottom of the fifth to take a 4-2 lead. The Rangers have now lost four straight and 13 of their last 18 games.
"I don't know what to tell you," outfielder Sammy Sosa said. "We just have to keep fighting. We're playing a good team. Whatever comes out of it, we just have to keep fighting."
It would help if the Rangers could fight with their best weapons occasionally. But Gagne and Padilla, for the most part, are wasting away.
"Tonight, we got it to Benoit," manager Ron Washington said. "It just didn't work out."
Gagne has pitched in 10 games this year and has yet to allow a run. But that 0.00 ERA has been put to a test in just two save situations this year, and the Rangers have had to use him four times this year in games that they have lost just to get him work.
Otsuka pitched the top of the ninth with the Rangers trailing, 7-4, and pitched a scoreless inning to lower his ERA to 1.02. It was his ninth appearance this month; six have been in Rangers losses. A setup reliever's job is to hold a lead for the closer, but he hasn't had an official "hold" since April 21.
The Rangers have just 10 save opportunities this season, the fewest in the American League. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have had 27 save opportunities. The Rangers' 80 percent success rate is the fifth best in the league, but it hasn't helped much without many leads to save.
Gagne has had just one save opportunity this month. He was warming up in the bottom of the ninth in case the Rangers sent the game into extra innings. They did get two on with two out against closer Jonathan Papelbon, but Gerald Laird's deep fly to center came up just short.
"I thought Padilla was going a great job, and in the sixth inning, he just fell apart," Washington said. "He just started rushing and overthrowing. They are the type of team that makes you work if you don't throw it over the plate."
Padilla did look strong for five innings. A double, two walks and Michael Young's throwing error on a double-play attempt brought home two runs in the fourth, but Padilla had allowed just two hits and retired six straight batters when he took a 4-2 lead into the sixth.
But then it all fell apart, and the Rangers couldn't recover. Texas is now 2-9 with Padilla on the mound.
"Lately, it seems, it has been that one big inning that's doing us in," designated hitter Frank Catalanotto said. "It could have been a totally different game. It would have been nice to get through that inning, but we didn't. We've got to stop it from happening."
Instead, Kevin Youkilis led off with a single and scored on a triple by Manny Ramirez. J.D. Drew then drew a walk and Mike Lowell singled to left to tie the game. Benoit replaced Padilla and Coco Crisp singled to center to give the Indians the lead. Three walks and a sacrifice fly brought home two more runs.
"Benoit has been doing the job," Washington said. "It just didn't happen tonight. When it comes times to give him the ball, I'm going to give it to him."
The Red Sox, with knuckleballer Tim Wakefield on the mound, walked away from the sixth inning with a 7-4 lead, and it stayed that way. The Red Sox are 25-1 this season when leading after six innings.
Other teams know how to shorten a game and shut it down with their bullpen. So do the Rangers, but they just aren't getting the chance very often.