ARLINGTON -- The Rangers, despite all the problems out of the bullpen, at least had one last chance with their two best bats, the two guys who have been carrying their offense since the beginning of the season. They were down two runs with one out in the ninth, but they had the bases loaded with Josh Hamilton at the plate and Milton Bradley on deck. They couldn't have asked for much more after Joaquin Benoit and Jamey Wright combined to give up three runs in two innings. They had the crowd on their feet with high expectations. This time they couldn't get it done. The damage by the bullpen was irreparable and the Rangers fell short with a 5-4 loss to the Rays on Saturday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Hamilton did get one run home with a hard grounder to Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett, who could only get a force at second base. That left it up to Bradley, who was 2-for-4 with a home run to that point, against Rays right-hander Dan Wheeler. Bradley hit a high sharp grounder back up the middle that was headed for center field. But Wheeler got a glove on it and deflected it to second baseman Akinori Iwamura, who threw it to first for the easy out. "Without a doubt, that's a base hit all the way, clear and through," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Not only did he deflect it, but he deflected it right to him. He didn't even have to run for it." "In that situation you just have to slow things down and make some pitches," Wheeler said. "I was able to get some ground balls with some good hitters up there. And Bartlett made a great play, and I assisted Aki on the last one. That one probably would have been up the middle." Instead the game ended with Bradley throwing his hands in the air in frustration and tossing his helmet aside as the Rangers lost for the fifth time in the nine games on this road trip. "We needed to get a hit and it didn't happen," said Hamilton, who was 0-for-5 on the night and may get a day off on Sunday. "We just didn't get it done." Neither did the bullpen and that's been a bigger problem for the Rangers of late. Rangers starter Scott Feldman went seven innings and allowed just two runs, but left with the game tied and the bullpen couldn't keep it that way. Instead, Benoit gave up a two-out, two-run double to Willy Aybar in the eighth and Wright let home a run in the ninth with a wild pitch. "Feldman did a great job, we just didn't close it out in the eighth and the ninth," Washington said. By allowing three runs in two innings, the Rangers' bullpen has allowed 34 earned runs over seven games. That's three more than Rangers relievers allowed in 29 games in May. The bullpen has a 10.93 ERA in June as opposed to a 2.64 ERA in May. The Rangers were 19-10 in May and just 2-5 in June. "We've got a lot of good arms out there, we shouldn't be giving up runs the way we are," Wright said. "We've got to do a better job." "We're not frustrated with them," Washington said. "They've done good for us. We've just got to get them straightened out. They're capable of getting it done. Frustration is not setting in, we just want to get it straightened out." If anybody has a right to be frustrated it's Feldman, whose only lapse was a two-run home run to Gabe Gross in the second inning. The Rangers are now 1-7 in his eight starts, even though six of them have qualified statistically as a quality start. He also has a 3.93 ERA as a starter. "Anytime you don't win it's frustrating," Feldman said. "Sometimes it just happens that you go against another team and the other guy throws better. We definitely had good hitters, but sometimes their pitchers throw better than we do." Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine wasn't better than Feldman. But he was able to escape some early jams. The Rangers had six hits and a walk against him in the first four innings, but were also 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position in that stretch and 1-for-12 in the game.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.