The Rangers won seven consecutive games heading into Tuesday night's first-place showdown. They went 8-2 over their past 10 games, tied with Milwaukee for the best record in the Major Leagues over that span.
But then they arrived at a site that has been most unkind. The Rangers had lost eight straight at Comerica Park.
Make that nine.
The Rangers managed only one hit -- a Michael Young double in the first inning -- off Detroit starter Dontrelle Willis and four relievers during their 4-0 loss on Tuesday night before 23,756 fans at Comerica Park. Their nine straight losses at Comerica matched the club record for most consecutive losses at an opposing park.
"I don't know what it is," Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "Hopefully we can figure it out."
The Rangers, who played without star center fielder Josh Hamilton, recorded one hit for the first time since April 18, 2007. They were shut out for just the second time this season.
"You got to give them credit tonight," manager Ron Washington said. "That don't happen to the Texas Rangers very often. ... I know [Willis] has been having some problems harnessing his control, but tonight, he made pitches when he had to make pitches."
The Rangers made it halfway to the club record for consecutive victories. The 1991 team won 14 straight.
Willis came to Detroit in the Winter 2007 trade that also brought slugger Miguel Cabrera. He signed a three-year, $29-million deal, but the former 22-game winner couldn't live up to it, eventually accepting a demotion to Class A after severe control problems.
This season, he started the year on the disabled list with anxiety disorder. He made only one start before Tuesday.
But the former Cy Young Award runner-up looked like it against the Rangers. At one point, he retired 17 batters in a row. He allowed just the one hit in 6 1/3 innings and departed in the seventh to a standing ovation.
"When you win seven in a row, things are bound to go their way," Rangers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "[Willis] pitched very well. He had his fastball going, and he was throwing it for strikes. He mixed in the other pitches. He threw the ball well."
Texas starter Brandon McCarthy allowed runs in the each of the first three innings.
The right-hander loaded the bases twice in those frames, but never surrendered a haymaker. He yielded two hits in his final four innings.
"In those first couple innings, I just couldn't get a feel for it," McCarthy said. "I was making it way too tough on myself. After the third, I tried to get myself to settle down as much as possible and have fun and throw as many pitches in the zone as much as I could and take the results wherever they went."
McCarthy went seven innings and allowed four runs for a second consecutive start. He also gave up a season-high nine hits.
"He kept everything to a minimum," Washington said. "He still hung in there and gave us a chance. Four runs with this club is nothing. We just couldn't muster anything against their pitching staff."
In the first, Young doubled and Andruw Jones walked to put two on and two out. But Willis got Marlon Byrd to lift a lazy fly ball to right.
The Rangers didn't threaten again.
Detroit opened the scoring on Jeff Larish's sacrifice fly to deep right, and Placido Polanco made it 2-0 with an RBI single in the second. Gerald Laird, facing his old team, gave the Tigers a three-run lead with a sacrifice fly in the third -- sending the Rangers on their way to yet another Comerica loss.
What is it about this place?
"I wish I knew. I would do something about it," Washington said. "But tonight, they shut the Texas Rangers down with one hit. That don't happen often."
Scott McNeish is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.