Loss has team examining defense

Loss has team examining defense

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers had to sit down afterwards and talk about this one.

Two straight games of erratic defense was enough for manager Ron Washington to call his first postgame team meeting of the season. He obviously wasn't happy about his defense after three unearned runs proved to be the difference in a 4-1 loss to the Blue Jays at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington Saturday.

Even some of the 34,960 fans expressed their displeasure during a three-run fourth inning that gave Blue Jays starter Roy Halladay all the cushion that he needed to pitch a six-hit complete game. Washington could only concur with them when the subject of defense was brought up after the game.

"It was bad," Washington said.

An offense that went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and couldn't score until the ninth inning didn't help matters much, but that was hardly the source of the manager's displeasure. The Rangers defense was also a factor in an 8-5 loss to the Blue Jays on Friday.

"My pitching is solid and my offense is going to be what it's going to be," Washington said. "Sometimes, it just takes a few at-bats before it clicks, but it will. But we have to tighten the defense down. Those guys know it. They have professionalism and pride. They are better than what the errors showed. They are definitely better."

Right now, though, the Rangers lead the league with 13 errors and have given up a league-high 11 unearned runs in their first 11 games.

"We talked ... we're fine," shortstop Michael Young said. "We've got to make sure we play good, relaxed baseball and if we make mistakes, they are aggressive mistakes. We talked about a clean slate. We're not going to focus on what's already happened. We have good defensive players. At the end of the day, we know we'll play good defense."

Luis Mendoza, despite a jittery start, wasn't bad in his first outing of the season, but the combination of their offense being shut down by Halladay and one bad inning on defense was something that he couldn't overcome.

The Blue Jays have won two straight over the Rangers and are going for their first sweep here in Arlington since 1985.

"When you face a guy like Halladay, you can't let him get a lead like he got," Washington said. "Then he controls the baseball, and it's not like he's some rookie."

Mendoza started the game with a three-pitch walk to leadoff hitter David Eckstein. A fourth ball was called in the at-bat when Mendoza put his fingers to his mouth while on the mound. Aaron Hill followed with a run-scoring double to give the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead.

Mendoza escaped further damage that inning, but couldn't do the same in the fourth. That inning was what brought down Mendoza and the Rangers. If they had been able to keep it a 1-0 game, then they might have been able to manufacture something later. But a 4-0 lead for Halladay was too much for them to overcome.

The key play came with two out and a runner, Matt Stairs, on first base. Gregg Zaun, left-handed hitter, hit a soft line drive off the end of his bat out to third baseman Hank Blalock. The ball was right at shoe-top level and Blalock got caught undecided on how to play it. The ball got by him for an error.

"A tricky play," Blalock said. "I got caught in between either a short hop or catching it in the air. It's a play I should have made. I just missed it."

Stairs went to second on the play and Joe Inglett followed with a grounder up the middle that seemed to take an unexpected hop as Young went to his left. The ball zipped past him into center field for a single that scored Stairs.

Mendoza then loaded the bases by hitting Eckstein. Hill followed with a grounder to the left-side hole that Young got his glove on, but couldn't keep in the infield. Instead, it went for a two-run single that gave the Blue Jays a 4-0 lead. The Rangers didn't score until the ninth on an RBI double by Marlon Byrd.

"We didn't make the plays," Washington said. "If Hank makes that play, then [Mendoza] is out of that inning. Instead, [Mendoza] ends up throwing another 15 or 18 pitches. In a Major League game, when outs are given to you, you've got to take them."

It's something to talk about.

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