Bullpen collapses late in loss to Rays

Bullpen collapses late in loss to Rays

ARLINGTON -- It all started innocently enough with Chris Davis, playing his seventh game at third base, making a fielding error with two outs in the top of the eighth, the Rangers cruising at the time with a five-run lead.

Then Darren O'Day couldn't get an out. Neither could C.J. Wilson. Closer Frankie Francisco got a huge out to end the eighth, but gave up the lead in the ninth inning, allowing four runs on ground balls in the hole and a squeeze bunt.

With that, the Rangers left for Anaheim with their playoff hopes all but shot after a late-inning collapse and a 7-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Rangers are six games behind the Angels in the AL West with seven games to go and a four-game series against the Halos starting Monday. The Rangers are also six games behind Boston in the AL Wild Card race, meaning the Angels and Red Sox both have a magic number of two.

The Rangers led 5-0 going into the top of the eighth inning and had two outs before Davis' crucial error.

"That turned the game around, it gave them the momentum," said Davis, who also said he wasn't surprised that veteran Omar Vizquel wasn't in the game for defensive purposes. Vizquel came in at third for the ninth inning.

Still, Rangers center fielder Marlon Byrd made it 6-3 with a home run in the bottom of the eighth, seemingly giving the Rangers the momentum back, with Francisco taking a three-run lead to the top of the ninth.

"When you have Frankie on the mound, you feel like you have all the runs you need," Byrd said. The Rays, however, disregarded that notion. Akinori Iwamura drew a big walk. Pat Burrell, the second pinch-hitter of the inning, struck out looking, allowing Rangers fans to take another sigh of relief. Not for long.

Jason Bartlett singled up the middle for the Rays. Carl Crawford did the same to make it 6-4. After Evan Longoria walked to load the bases, Ben Zobrist reached out and pulled a split-finger fastball through hole between first and second to tie the game at 6-6.

"I didn't have my command," Francisco said. "I was trying to get ground balls, but they found the holes. I expect better than that from me."

With the score tied, the Rangers changed pitchers to Neftali Feliz and Rays manager Joe Maddon countered with a suicide squeeze. Fernando Perez executed it and Longoria scored to give the Rays the 7-6 lead. The Rangers never had a chance on the squeeze.

"There's nothing we could to do to defend that play," Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "He's a really good bunter. You're hoping he either pops it up up, fouls it off or misses it."

Rangers starter Brandon McCarthy gave his ballclub 7 2/3 strong innings, making this a loss that was even tougher to take. McCarthy didn't allow an earned run in his second longest start of the season - he had a complete game at Houston on May 24.

Nelson Cruz staked the Rangers to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second with a two-out home run to center field. The Rangers had a three-run fifth-inning that included a run-scoring bunt hit by Elvis Andrus. "We played great baseball into the eighth inning," Kinsler said.

Manager Ron Washington said after the game that the Rangers will never give up hope as long as they are mathematically alive. But he also admitted Sunday's loss made things a lot more difficult on the Rangers.

"With Anaheim winning today, it makes it tough," Washington said. "We had guys out there today we depended on all year long and they just didn't get it done."

Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.