SEATTLE -- Vicente Padilla has a tangible souvenir to remind him of the Rangers' terrible start to their season. He is now the first Rangers pitcher to have lost eight games in a season before June 1. Padilla earned that unwelcome distinction on Thursday by giving up seven runs in the first three innings, and the Rangers never fully recovered, losing to the Seattle Mariners, 9-5, at Safeco Field.
The loss also left the Rangers with a 9-20 record in May, the most losses in that month in club history. It's the 10th time they've lost at least 20 games in a month. They are also 19-35 on the season, tying the 1973 team for the worst start after 54 games. "I still believe in these guys," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "I believe in the saying that it's not how you start, but how you finish, and I believe we're going to finish better than we started." Padilla needs that to happen, because his first 12 starts haven't been good. Padilla is now 2-8 with a 6.45 ERA on the season, leaving Robinson Tejeda (5.75) and Mike Wood (5.40) as the only two pitchers who have started a game this year for the Rangers and have an ERA under six. "My control," Padilla said. "I've been working on my control. But when I pitch, I leave the ball high, and those are getting hit." Padilla's troubles started immediately, as he gave up three runs in the first inning and the Rangers have now been outscored 40-11 in the first inning this season. It's the 25th time this season that the Rangers have trailed by two or more runs to start a game. "It's not easy," first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "In any sport, when you get down early and have to chase down the other team, it's tough." Washington felt the Rangers could come back from 3-0 against Mariners starter Cha Seung Baek, especially considering Padilla didn't get hit particularly hard that inning and considering he retired the side in order in the second. But the Mariners piled on four more runs in the third to take a 7-0 lead, and that seemed to frustrate Washington. "The biggest problem to me is he sometimes seems to lose his focus," Washington said. "We've got to pitch better. We're expecting our No. 2 guy to be our No. 2 guy, and you expect him to battle and keep us in the game. Three runs in the first is OK, but you got to come back, keep battling and keep fighting, because our guys aren't going to give up." Padilla, who came out after three innings, faced 21 batters and allowed nine hits, one walk and hit a batter. "He's had a lot of bad luck lately, but he's just making mistakes up in the middle of the plate," catcher Gerald Laird said. "The combination of bad luck and making mistakes doesn't help. The stuff is there and the movement is there but it's the location." The Rangers, as Washington said, didn't quit. They scored five runs off Baek in the fourth inning when Frank Catalanotto hit a two-run double and Laird hit a three-run home run. That made it 7-5, but the Rangers couldn't completely close the gap. They had bases loaded with one out in the seventh, but rookie right-hander Brandon Morrow struck out Sammy Sosa and got Catalanotto on a grounder to second to end the threat. The Rangers also put on two on with one out in the eighth, but left-hander George Sherrill struck out Matt Kata and Kenny Lofton to end the threat. "We thought we were going to get Baek at the end," outfielder Marlon Byrd said. "It was a two-run game, we just couldn't swing it at the end." The Mariners then padded their lead by scoring two runs off Akinori Otsuka in the ninth. Otsuka has now allowed four runs in his last two appearances, raising his ERA from 1.02 ERA to 2.75. Washington could only shake his head on that one. "When you're going bad and you think things are going better, something else goes bad," Washington said. It has been a rough two months, for Padilla and everybody else.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.