Hours after star outfielder Josh Hamilton was put on the disabled list, the Rangers' pitching staff was hit hard in a 12-3 loss to the Yankees on Tuesday night in front of 43,948 at Yankee Stadium. New York (31-21) erupted for a seven-run fourth inning to blow the game open off starting pitcher Vicente Padilla, and now leads the Rangers (30-21) by a half-game for first place in the American League standings.
"We could take a lesson from them," outfielder Marlon Byrd said. "They put a beating on us."
Padilla, who hadn't pitched since May 16 because of a strained right shoulder, struggled with his command all night and allowed seven earned runs in just 3 2/3 innings. He surrendered seven hits and was plagued by four walks and two hit batsmen, but said afterward he felt healthy and that his velocity was acceptable. The problem was his location.
The Rangers took an early 3-2 lead, when right fielder Nelson Cruz blasted a three-run home run in the third inning off Yankees starter A.J. Burnett. But it was short-lived. New York opened the floodgates in the bottom of the fourth to take complete control.
"We couldn't stop them, and they just opened up seven runs right there in the fourth inning," Washington said. "That killed us right there."
Padilla led off the frame by walking Melky Cabrera, who was bunted to second by Brett Gardner. After Derek Jeter walked, Johnny Damon lined a hit into right field to score the tying run.
Texas had an opportunity to escape without further damage, when Alex Rodriguez came up with the bases loaded and one out. He hit what looked to be a double-play grounder to second, but Mark Teixeira slid hard into the bag to break it up and allow the go-ahead run to cross the plate.
"That really killed us, because I think if we got off the field with the score 4-3 right there, it's still in striking distance," Washington said. "It's a little different [if] he's coming out there trying to pitch in a 4-3 game than coming out there and pitching in a [9-3] game."
Padilla called the play "unlucky."
The Yankees capitalized on the opportunity. They strung together three straight hits after the Rangers were unable to convert the double play, including the deciding blow: a three-run homer by Hideki Matsui off reliever Derek Holland.
When the devastating inning was finally over, the Yankees had sent 10 men to the plate and knocked Padilla out of the game. From there, they never looked back.
"They made [Padilla] work, but he kept the game manageable," Washington said. "When they got the opportunity to get it unmanageable, they did."
There was some controversy in the big fourth inning, when Padilla hit Teixeira for the second time in the game. Teixeira appeared to have words for Padilla on his way to first, and Rangers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia immediately jumped from behind the plate before the situation escalated. Padilla hit Teixeira twice to load the bases for Rodriguez.
Washington said he did not believe the pitches were intentional, and that Padilla was simply trying to get inside on him. Padilla had similar sentiments.
"The answer is, it's stupid if he thinks it was an intentional pitch," Padilla said through a translator.
The Rangers never recovered from the seven-run inning and had no answer for Burnett. After Cruz's homer, they managed just four more hits, and Burnett cruised through seven strong innings.
It was a disappointing way to begin what could be an important litmus test for Texas at this point in the season. The Rangers have been one of the biggest surprises in baseball thus far, but have yet to crack the national consciousness. Beating the Yankees and Red Sox on the road would begin to solidify their place as legitimate contenders.
And the team knows it. That's why the Rangers plan to quickly put Tuesday behind them and continue proving that they belong with the American League's elite.
"I think we made some mistakes with our pitches, left some over the plate, and it's a good hitting team," Saltalamacchia said. "Tomorrow, it could be a new day. They could leave pitches over the plate, and we're a good hitting team. Everything didn't go our way, and we'll see what tomorrow brings."
Jared Diamond is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.