CLEVELAND -- In a somber Rangers clubhouse, third baseman Michael Young pretty much summed it all up. "That's a game we've got to lock up with pitching and defense," Young said. "That's something we usually do. It didn't happen today. That's what makes it frustrating, because that's what we usually do -- lock games up late." This one didn't get locked up. This one slipped away in a matter of a few agonizing minutes of eighth-inning frustration in a 3-2 loss to the Indians on Thursday afternoon at Progressive Field.
The Rangers, holding a 2-0 lead with starter Matt Harrison on a roll, were six outs away from completing a three-game sweep of the Indians and winning for the fifth time in six games. They could have walked out of Progressive Field with a 6-3 record. But it all fell apart on two costly errors in the field and one bad pitch that Cleveland outfielder Shin-Soo Choo hit out of the park for a game-winning three-run home run. Texas made just four errors in its first eight games before Thursday's costly transgressions. "We just didn't make the plays," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "It's part of the game, but you just don't like to see it happen right there." Young and shortstop Elvis Andrus had supplied all the offense in the fourth inning against Indians starter David Huff. Andrus singled leading off the inning and Young went the other way with a two-run home run to right field. But they were the ones who let their offensive work go for naught with a pair of critical errors in the ill-fated eighth. Harrison took a four-hit shutout into the inning before disaster struck against the top of the Indians' order. Asdrubel Cabrera led off with a sharp grounder right at Young, who handled it with no problems but bounced his throw to first base. Chris Davis couldn't dig it out and Cabrera was safe on the error. "I just threw it away," Young said, offering no excuses. "It was a bad throw." Grady Sizemore followed with a weak grounder to second baseman Andres Blanco, who threw to Andrus covering second trying to get the force. But Andrus simply dropped the ball. "I don't believe myself that I missed that ball," Andrus said. "I think I took my eye off it too quickly. I knew we weren't going to have a play at first base, so I have to make sure we get the out. But I took my eye off the ball quickly." Harrison refused to let his teammate take all of the blame for what happened. "We made a couple of errors, but those things happen," Harrison said. "I didn't pick up my teammates." After a visit from pitching coach Mike Maddux, Harrison went after Choo in a lefty vs. lefty matchup, trying to get a possible double-play grounder. He threw two cut fastballs. The first missed outside the strike zone. The second was up in the strike zone, and Choo hit it high and deep off the top of the wall in deep right-center for a three-run home run. "Cutter down the middle of the plate," Harrison said. "I wanted to make him hit it on the ground and didn't get the ball down enough. I made a big mistake." Choo was 7-for-10 with two home runs and four RBI in this three-game series against the Rangers. "Choo has been a thorn in our side all series," Washington said. "He finally got a big one. A real big one." The Rangers have now had three of their four losses decided in the opposing team's final at-bat. Two of those came in starts by Harrison, and he is still waiting for his first victory despite a 1.38 ERA over his first two outings. "I felt strong the whole game," Harrison said. "My arm felt as good in the first inning as it did in the eighth. I just wish I had that one pitch back. I just have to go out there in my next start and do the same thing." Harrison threw 116 pitches, his most since throwing 118 in a five-hit shutout over the Athletics on Sept. 12, 2008. But Washington saw no fatigue in the eighth. "He was fresh ... real fresh," Washington said. "He got the first guy and we didn't make the play. He got the second guy and we didn't make the play. Harry did his job." Rangers starters now have a 1.93 ERA through their first nine games of the season, but the club has just five wins out of that.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.