ARLINGTON -- The Rangers flew home from Oakland on the night of July 27 with a record of 54-51 and they were 6 1/2 games out in the American League Wild Card race. That wasn't the most enviable position, but the whole organization was gearing up for a stretch where the Rangers would play 20 of their next 26 at home. The pervading feeling was it was time to make a move. They did, but in the wrong direction. That 26-game stretch came to an end on Sunday night with a 4-3 loss to the Indians at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Texas trailed, 3-1, in the bottom of the eighth, scored two runs to tie it and then lost it in the top of the ninth when reliever Eddie Guardado gave up a run-scoring single to Franklin Gutierrez. "Very, very, very frustrating," Guardado said after the Rangers lost their third straight to the Indians. "I'm at a loss for words. Obviously, our offense has there all year scoring runs like nobody's business. Right now, they're not scoring runs like they have been, so as pitchers, each and every one of us have to pick each other up. We've got to step it up. If we do that, we'll get out of this." The loss was the Rangers' 14th in their last 17 games, and they finished 9-17 during the 26-game stretch that they thought would work to their advantage. They are now five games under .500 and 12 1/2 games out of the AL Wild Card. "It just didn't happen the way we wanted it, but it's over," shortstop Michael Young said. "We know we haven't played our best baseball. We know we're capable of more. Injuries are not an excuse, every team has those. Now, we'll find out what're made of. We can go in two different directions. We can either sit around and pout and throw in the towel, or we battle back and regroup." One constant over the past 26 games is the Rangers' inability to keep Milton Bradley in the lineup and away from annoying injuries. He has started just 13 of Texas' last 26 games and was pulled out in five of those starts at some point because of a health issue. On Sunday night, he exited the game in the eighth inning after starting the two-run rally by beating out a grounder for an infield hit. Jason Ellison pinch-ran for him as a precautionary measure. It was a tough night for everybody, but especially outfielder Josh Hamilton and pitcher Vicente Padilla. Hamilton was 0-for-5 at the plate and misplayed a ball in center that turned a single into a run-scoring triple in the fourth. Padilla, striking out seven of the first 11 batters he faced, took a 1-0 lead in fourth before giving up a one-out single to Jhonny Peralta. Shin-Soo Choo followed with a fly ball into left-center that Hamilton went after and seemed ready to make a lunging or diving catch on. But he didn't. He pulled up at the last second, and the ball skipped by him to the wall. "I just lost it," Hamilton said. "I think he realizes now he should have left his feet," manager Ron Washington said. "The only chance you've got is leaving your feet." Choo reached third and scored on Ryan Garko's sacrifice fly to give the Indians a 2-1 lead. They added another run in the fifth when Padilla, with two on and one out, hit both Jamey Carroll and David Dellucci with pitches to force in a run. The Rangers, down two runs, just couldn't get anything going against Indians starter Anthony Reyes, who was acquired a month ago from the Cardinals for a Minor League reliever. He held the Rangers to one run on four hits and four walks through seven innings. "We didn't swing the bats well tonight," Young said. "We're better than that." They were better in the eighth against relievers Juan Rincon and Rafael Betancourt. Gerald Laird had an RBI double and Ramon Vazquez tied it up by working a two-out bases loaded walk against Betancourt. But Frank Catalanotto grounded out on the first pitch to end the inning with the game tied. It didn't stay that way. Garko led off the ninth with a single, pinch-runner Andy Gonzalez was bunted to second by Kelly Shoppach, and Gutierrez bounced a single up the middle beyond Young's diving reach to score the winning run. "We got back in it and almost won it," Washington said. "We had the right people in there, we just couldn't get it done."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.