ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Ron Washington preaches having players keep the team in the game in order to have a chance to win. That's what he got Saturday night -- four times. Four times, Texas sluggers struck out with runners in scoring position. Unable to convert these opportunities into runs, the Rangers lost the middle game of their Interleague meeting with the Phillies, 8-6, at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. "When you fall down like we did early on, you want to put yourself in position to get back in it with one swing, and we did that," Washington said.
But none of those swings connected and the Rangers reversed direction back to the .500 mark. Again.Texas is now winless in six chances to climb two games over .500. And this time it happened with its ace on the mound and its best hitters up in the clutch. Vicente Padilla started for Texas, but didn't add any numbers of substance to his All-Star resume in his final audition against National League competition. Padilla labored through six innings, allowing seven hits, including home runs to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Those long balls accounted for three of the seven runs Padilla allowed, but his control issues ran deeper. He matched his three strikeouts with three walks, hit a batter and let in another run on a wild pitch. "I think there were two pitches Padilla would like to take back," Washington said. "The one to Utley and one to Howard. If not for those, his outing would have looked a lot better and maybe [Cole] Hamels' doesn't look as good." But Hamels had far fewer regrettable pitches. Although the Rangers scratched two runs off Hamels in the first on a two-run, opposite-field home run from Michael Young, Hamels' two-run fifth inning could have been much worse. Jarrod Saltalamacchia doubled and Ian Kinsler singled as each drove in runs to bring the Rangers within two at 6-4. Texas was in position to do more damage with two on, two out and Josh Hamilton up. However, Hamilton struck out looking. "He is tired," Washington said. "We're almost finished with three months of the season, but everybody's fatigued. You have to play through it." The Rangers didn't threaten again until the eighth. Already with two runs in the inning, Texas had the bases loaded, two outs and Saltalamacchia at the dish. Facing Philadelphia reliever J.C. Romero, Saltalamacchia went down on strikes to kill the rally. Against lefties this season, Saltalamacchia is hitting .133, and he's hitting .129 in his last nine games. But the two runs Texas scored before Saltalamacchia struck out put the game within reach at 8-6. Victory was even closer within the Rangers' grasp when Ramon Vazquez hit a pinch-hit leadoff double in the bottom of the ninth. Two batters later, Young got on base with a single. So, with one out and the tying run on, Hamilton was due up. Again, he struck out. He was 1-for-4 on the night without a single RBI. He has just four RBIs in his past eight games. "It's a six-month season and we've got three months to go," Washington said. "The way he played the first two months, there was no way he was going to keep that up." That left one out for Milton Bradley to change the outcome. Yet, he, too, went down on strikes against Philadelphia closer Brad Lidge. "At least we're getting those chances," Young said. "More times than not, we're knocking those guys in." Young was doing that Saturday night. He went 3-for-5, recording his second straight multi-hit game. His home run in the first inning was his first since June 5. Kinsler joined in, also going 3-for-5 and extending his hitting streak to 11 games. Considering the mini-slump Young is coming out of, he can relate to what Hamilton's going through lately. "That's part of playing in the big leagues," Young said. "People forget it's just his second year in the big leagues. Nobody's going to go rip-roaring through the entire league in a whole season, I don't care who you are."
Shawn Shroyer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.