Rangers frustrated to settle for a split

Gabbard's return spoiled in Game 2

NEW YORK -- The Rangers weren't shy about it. They were hungry for a twin-bill sweep, especially after the way they held off the Mets in the first game, and they felt Kason Gabbard pitched well enough to get them that second game.

But not when their old nemesis is on the mound and on his game again. Pedro Martinez may not be the overpowering pitcher that he once was in the American League, but he was good enough to stave off the Rangers' hopes for a sweep.

The Rangers instead had to settle for a split of Sunday's doubleheader after a 4-2 loss to the Mets in the second game at Shea Stadium. The Rangers won the first game, 8-7, after holding off the Mets' late-inning rally.

The Rangers led in that one, 8-2, going into the bottom of the eighth before barely holding on in the end. The Mets' victory in the second game allowed them to take two of three from the Rangers in the series. The Rangers are 10-3-2 in their last 15 series, but are back to one game under .500.

"I wanted to be greedy," manager Ron Washington said. "I wanted it all and I thought Gabbard was outstanding."

But Washington was still agonizing over two pitches that really cost the Rangers. One was a strikeout/wild pitch that kept the third inning alive and the other was an 0-2 curveball that a pinch-hitter bounced up the middle for his first Major League hit in nearly a decade.

"Overall, I thought I pitched pretty well," Gabbard said. "I honestly pitched better than my line shows, but that's the way things go."

Martinez's line reflected his outing. He allowed two runs, one earned, in six innings and is now 10-2 with a 1.87 ERA in 14 career starts against the Rangers. The Rangers had five hits in the first three innings off Martinez, but just two runs. After that, Martinez and three relievers combined to retire 20 of 21 hitters, as well as the last 16 they faced on the afternoon.

The Rangers got nothing offensively after Gabbard's fourth-inning single.

"Pedro obviously threw the ball well," shortstop Michael Young said. "He threw strikes. We had some chances early, then he settled down. We're definitely not satisfied, we wanted to take two, especially after the effort we had in the first game. It just didn't happen."

What spectators that remained for the second game of a doubleheader loved what they saw from Martinez and also didn't like what they saw from outfielder Marlon Byrd. They saw Byrd fly out to center field in the sixth inning, then have words with Martinez as he crossed back to the third-base dugout.

Fans started getting on him, but Byrd insisted it was a harmless conversation that ended with pleasantries about the Mets' upcoming trip to Anaheim.

"He asked where the pitch was and I told him it was up," Byrd said. "I told him, 'I'm going to get you next time,' and then I said, 'Good luck in Anaheim.'"

Gabbard could have used some luck, especially in the third inning. Gabbard, holding a 2-0 lead, retired the first two hitters, then got Jose Reyes to swing and miss on a 1-2 curveball in the dirt. But the pitch bounced past catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to the backstop and Reyes was able to beat the throw to first.

That kept the inning alive and the Mets responded with three straight singles from Luis Castillo, David Wright and Carlos Beltran to tie the score.

"If we block that pitch, Reyes is out, we're out of that inning and Gabbard is still dealing," Washington said.

Instead it was knotted at 2. The Mets ended up going ahead in the bottom of the sixth, another frustrating inning for the Rangers that started with a leadoff single by Beltran and a double by Damion Easley that put runners at second and third.

Washington, with nobody out, moved the infield in and Carlos Delgado grounded out to Young. Gabbard then struck out Ramon Castro, leaving him with a chance to get out of the inning.

With Martinez on deck, the Rangers decided to intentionally walk Fernando Tatis. Mets manager Willie Randolph then countered with Cancel, who was called up three days ago from the Minors. Prior to that, he had not been in the big leagues since 1999 with the Brewers.

Gabbard jumped ahead 0-2 in the count, then wanted to get Cancel to chase a curveball in the dirt. But the pitch was a little higher than Gabbard wanted and Cancel bounced it up the middle for a two-run single. It was his first Major League hit since Sept. 21, 1999.

"I'm a ground-ball pitcher and I got it on the ground," Gabbard said. "It just happened to find a hole."

That left Gabbard with a loss and he's now 1-3 with a 4.94 ERA on the season. But the Rangers still saw this as a marked improvement over what he was showing before he was sent to Triple-A for two starts.

"A lot of ground balls and a lot of strikes," pitching coach Mark Connor said. "That's what it's all about. It's something to build on, it's just too bad it was an L."

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