DETROIT — The Rangers had to pitch a full game out of the bullpen and five relievers did combine to hold the Tigers to three runs in 8 1/3 innings. That’s not bad considering the circumstances.
But Brandon Inge hit a one-out home run in the bottom of the ninth inning off of Darren Oliver to give the Tigers a 3-2 victory and hand the Rangers their first losing streak of the season. The Rangers have lost two straight to the Tigers, and both came on walk-off hits in the bottom of the ninth.
“I thought we battled pretty hard,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “We hung in there and almost pulled it off.”
Rangers pitchers had retired nine straight hitters before Inge hit his game winner off of Oliver. It was the only home run hit during the three-game series.
“Slider,” Inge said. “He did start me off with two of those the other day, but I’d be lying if I told you I was looking for it. I was just trying to really get my swing down and be aggressive and try to hit the ball up the middle. Hard.”
The Rangers were more frustrated with their own lack of offense. They had nine hits but were 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
“The offense didn’t get much going,” outfielder David Murphy said. “Just like yesterday, we took advantage of our opportunities, but there were also a few opportunities that we didn’t get it done. We’re not going to be perfect … at some point you have to give the other pitchers credit, but I feel like we could have won that game. I feel like we could have won yesterday.
“I feel like we could have won today. It’s a tough feeling. It’s never a good feeling when the game is over and you feel you could have done more to win the game.”
The Rangers were forced into this pitching predicament because they were rained out on Friday in Baltimore. That forced Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison to pitch in a doubleheader on Saturday, and the Rangers didn’t want either pitcher coming back on three days rest.
Lewis is back in Texas, where his wife Jenny gave birth to daughter Elizabeth on Thursday. Lewis is probably not going to pitch again until the Rangers return home next week.
The Rangers received a combined five scoreless innings out of David Bush and Mason Tobin to start the afternoon. Bush, pitching for the first time since one inning in an exhibition game against Triple-A Round Rock on March 30, went three innings and allowed three hits and three walks. However, he held the Tigers to 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. He ended up throwing 71 pitches in three innings, and had to come out sooner than the Rangers hoped.
“They certainly weren’t the greatest three innings I’ve ever thrown,” Bush said. “I would have liked to have gotten more than three innings out of my 70 pitches. It was about what I expected. I felt good physically, but my fastball command was something that I struggled with. Fortunately I had good command of my offspeed stuff, and I was able to use those in certain situations.”
Tobin needed just 26 pitches to get through two innings. Working in just his third Major League game, Tobin allowed a hit and a walk in his second straight two-inning scoreless appearance.
“He did a good job,” Washington said. “He came in, kept the ball down and got us through some innings. We certainly needed it.”
Tobin was also in line to get his first Major League victory when the Rangers scored two in the top of the sixth against Max Scherzer. But the Tigers took that away when they scored two off Mark Lowe.
The Rangers scored their runs on RBI singles by Nelson Cruz and David Murphy. The Tigers struck back in the bottom of the inning on successive doubles from Victor Martinez and Brennan Boesch. Lowe struck out Jhonny Peralta, but Alex Avila singled to put runners at the corners, and Inge drove home the tying run with a sacrifice fly.
“I just fell behind hitters,” Lowe said. “I fell behind Victor and had to throw the fastball there, hope he hit it to someone and get a quick out. The other guys hit changeups that weren’t bad pitches, but they put them in gaps and I gave up some runs.”
Lowe has made four appearances and allowed four runs on seven hits and a walk in 2 2/3 innings.
“The thing is I’d like to see him hit his spots better,” Washington said. “He’s out there battling, hopefully the next few times he’ll get better.”
The Rangers have a day off on Thursday in New York. That will give their bullpen a day of rest. Everybody but Bush will likely be available on Friday night.
Watch the Rangers play the Yankees Friday night at Big Racks BBQ in Grapevine