"It was a bad loss," outfielder Marlon Byrd said. "We went out there expecting to win, and we got beat."
The Rangers, after losing for the fourth time in five games, are now 5 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in the American League Wild Card race. The Red Sox did beat the Angels on Tuesday, so the Rangers remain six games out in the AL West with 18 games left to play.
"It's an extremely inopportune time for this to happy," outfielder David Murphy said. "We just haven't showed much of anything the last few games. We can go one or two ways. We can give up and throw in the towel or keep fighting and show the character we've shown all year. I expect us to step it up. But you just can't show up expecting to win."
Murphy's home run to lead off the fourth gave the Rangers their only run of the night. It's also the Rangers' only run in their last 28 innings. They have been outscored, 21-1, in three straight losses
"The last three games have been a bad combination," manager Ron Washington said. "We're not scoring runs, and we're giving up too many runs. It's a bad time to do that, but we have to battle through it."
The Rangers, who are still without Josh Hamilton, were hoping their offense would get a boost with the return of Young. But their hopes proved premature.
Young flied out to center in the first inning, but felt his leg grab at him during the at-bat and decided not to push it. Nelson Cruz pinch-hit for him in the third. Young said he will not play on Wednesday but will try again on Friday after the off-day.
"I came in thinking I was ready to go," Young said. "But there are certain things you can't simulate except in a game. I got caught off balance during that at-bat, and I felt the hamstring grab me. It's not a big deal. It's not a setback. It just wasn't ready."
Cruz, after Young left, ended up batting in two crucial moments for the Rangers. Twice he came up with runners at second and third with one out and was unable to get a run home. The Rangers trailed, 4-1, in the fifth inning when left-handed reliever Craig Breslow got Cruz to foul out to first. Murphy then flied out to center. In the seventh in the same situation and the Rangers trailing, 6-1, Cruz struck out, and Murphy grounded out.
"It hurts a lot," Cruz said. "Very frustrating. I got chances to drive in runs and didn't do it. It's unacceptable."
The Rangers, after going hitless in 10 at-bats on Tuesday, are 2-for-28 with runners in scoring position in the first five games of this homestand. They are hitting .218 overall, and Elvis Andrus had a 16-game hitting streak snapped.
But asked what the Rangers need now, Byrd said. "Pitching. We have to get our pitching back to where it was. This team is not an offensive team. It needs pitching and defense and timely hitting. Right now, we don't have our key ingredients: pitching, defense and timely hitting."
With the offense in a deep funk, the Rangers needed some help on the mound and didn't get it. Instead Brandon McCarthy allowed four runs in three-plus innings.
"He just didn't have command," Washington said simply.
Catcher Ivan Rodriguez's throwing error led to an unearned run in the first and McCarthy walked three around a single to force in a run in the second. McCarthy retired the side in order in the third, but Washington decided he had seen enough after the Athletics began the fourth with a single by Mark Ellis and a double by Daric Barton.
He called on Doug Mathis, who almost got out of the inning. He retired Cliff Pennington on a shallow pop to left and struck out Adam Kennedy. But Rajai Davis hit a popup to shallow right and Murphy just missed making a diving catch. Instead, it went for a two-run single and a 4-0 lead for the Athletics.
"Tonight I just wasn't able to get ahead of hitters," McCarthy said. "I kept getting into bad counts. ... It was something that plagued me all night. Looking back on it, I'm pretty bummed. As a pitcher, you want to hold up your end but putting us in a hole early like that magnifies everybody's problems."