SEATTLE -- The Rangers started the season in last place because they lost three straight games on the road. They finished the season in last place for the exact same reason. They just played poorly when they were away from Rangers Ballpark. That was a problem for the Rangers all year, and it was to the end as the Mariners completed a three-game sweep with a 4-2 victory at Safeco Field on Sunday.
The loss, combined with the Athletics victory over the Angels, left the Rangers in last place in the American League West for the first time since 2003. "We would have liked to have passed Oakland, but we let the opportunity get away from us," manager Ron Washington said after his team ended up with the worst road record in the Major Leagues this season. The Rangers finished with a 28-53 record on the road, tied for the fifth worst record away from Arlington in club history and tied for the worst in one season since they were 25-56 in 1985. They lost 11 of their last 13 games on the road and this also marked the sixth time this season they were swept in a three-game series on the road. "We haven't played well on the road," Washington said. "It has a lot to do with pitching, hitting and not playing defense. It's certainly an area where we have to improve on and I believe we will." Like just about everything else, pitching made a big difference. The Rangers had a 5.27 ERA on the road and a 4.27 ERA at home. "I saw many games on the road where we had a chance to get a victory and we didn't make a pitch, get a hit in the right situation or catch the ball," Washington said. "We just didn't make a play. That's the way our season went." They were 47-34 at home. If they could have duplicated the 41-40 road record from 2006, then their season would have looked a whole lot differently. Instead, the Rangers finished 75-87 in their first year under Washington, including 52-45 since June 14. The Rangers, as Washington planned, went with a lineup of young players and reserves. Second baseman Ian Kinsler was the only player from the Opening Day lineup who started on Sunday. Michael Young, Hank Blalock, Sammy Sosa, Frank Catalanotto and Brad Wilkerson all sat on Sunday. Young ended up leading the Rangers for a club record fifth straight year with a .315 batting average and in RBIs with 94. Sosa led the Rangers with 21 home runs, the lowest total by a club leader in a non-strike season since 1980. The Rangers ended the season with two rookies on the mound. A.J. Murray started and Luis Mendoza pitched the final two innings. Murray, in his second Major League start, allowed four runs (three earned) in six innings and Mendoza finished off by pitching two scoreless innings. They just couldn't match Mariners starter Felix Hernandez, who allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits in 8 2/3 innings against the Rangers makeshift lineup. "Our kids went out and pitched pretty good," Washington said. "Murray handled himself well and Mendoza did an excellent job. But King Felix did very well against us." Murray just gave up a few big hits. Jamie Burke and Jose Lopez hit solo home runs off him and Adam Jones had a triple. Burke brought him home with a squeeze bunt, his second successful one against the Rangers this year. His home run in the second inning was his first Major League tater. Murray ended up with a 3.27 ERA in his two starts this week. He spent most of the season as a reliever, but the Rangers are ready for him to make the transition to a starting role. But he missed all of both 2004 and 2006 because of a shoulder injury and is still trying to build his inning totals back up. He finished with 80 innings total this year between the Major Leagues and Triple-A Oklahoma. The Rangers would like for him to build up to 140 innings at Triple-A next season and then be a factor at the Major League level in 2009. "In my two starts, even with my limited pitch count, I was at least able to get through five," Murray said. "I would have liked to have gone more today, but we wanted to end the season on a good note and go into next season healthy." Sunday's game lasted one hour, 57 minutes -- the fastest Rangers game of the season. Apparently, some people were eager to get back home. Their road record suggests why.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.