OAKLAND -- Rangers manager Ron Washington's frustration reached a boiling point on Monday night, as his team's losing streak reached six games. The main target of the manager's wrath was starting pitcher Robinson Tejeda, who allowed five runs in the first three innings. That left the Rangers in a big hole and their late-inning rally fell short in a 5-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Memorial Day at McAfee Coliseum. Washington began his review of Tejeda's night by saying, "It has to get better."
He was only warming up and even strongly suggested that Tejeda could ultimately cost himself a spot in the rotation. "Pretty soon the scholarships are going to end," Washington said. Tejeda's short outing left him 1-4 with an 8.57 ERA in his last five starts. He was 3-1 with a 3.82 ERA in his first five starts, and Washington was asked what the difference was. "Toughness," Washington said. "I don't see him pounding the strike zone like he was. I see him pitching around the strike zone, pitching away from contact. That's the difference." Tejeda didn't argue. "I'm right with that," Tejeda said. "That's what I'm working on. In the beginning, I was pounding the strike zone. I'm being very aggressive. Maybe I'm doing too much, trying to be too quick to the plate. I'll have to sit down with the pitching coach [Mark Connor] and see what he says and try to find out what's wrong." Tejeda gave up a home run to Travis Buck in the first inning and a pair of doubles to Bobby Crosby and Jack Cust that gave the Athletics a 2-0 lead in the second. Tejeda started the third inning by walking Shannon Stewart and Buck. Tejeda was able to retire Nick Swisher on a fly to left and Dan Johnson on a pop to short. But Eric Chavez jumped on a 1-2 offspeed pitch and hit it over the right-field wall to give the Athletics a 5-0 lead. When Tejeda started the fourth inning by walking Cust and Mark Ellis, Washington went to the bullpen. "He overthrew his fastball and didn't place his slider in good spots," Washington said. "He left it over the center of the plate. He got ahead of hitters and then walked them. "He didn't show me [any] guts. He's got good stuff, but you can't run away from bats. Whatever the problem is, we need to straighten it out. His stuff is too good. It's time to start growing up and throwing the ball in the strike zone. After a while there ain't going to be no more scholarships." Tejeda is just one reason why the Rangers' rotation is a mess. His 5.75 ERA is still the lowest of the regular starting pitchers. The Athletics have four pitchers who have made at least nine starts and Joe Blanton's 4.28 ERA is the highest of the four. Dan Haren leads the American League with a 1.70 ERA and Chad Gaudin lowered his ERA to 2.32 by holding the Rangers to one unearned run in 6 2/3 innings. The Rangers send Mike Wood out there on Tuesday and John Koronka on Wednesday. Supposedly, these are one-start affairs because of injuries to others, and then both pitchers are headed back to Triple-A Oklahoma. But who knows? The Rangers just might find a way to keep one or both around if they somehow find a way to pitch six or seven quality innings. The Rangers are desperate for just that from somebody. Willie Eyre took over for Tejeda and pitched four scoreless innings, allowing three hits and striking out six. Frank Francisco also pitched a scoreless inning. "Willie Eyre came in there and pounded the strike zone," Washington said. "Frank Francisco came in there and busted his tail and pounded the strike zone. Tejeda ... he's got to be better than what he was tonight. He's got to be better than what he was the last time out." The six-game losing streak is the Rangers' longest of the season and leaves them with the worst record in the Major Leagues. Starting pitching has contributed much to that most undesired distinction. Texas starters now have a combined 6.32 ERA on the season, which would be the highest in club history and the highest in Major League baseball since 1996, when the Detroit Tigers' rotation posted a 6.64 ERA.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.