ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers had their work cut out for them Saturday night in trying to follow up the flirt with perfection from Colby Lewis in Friday's series opener against Oakland.
With the pitching of Yovani Gallardo and a poor offensive performance against a pitcher who had never won a game in the majors, there was no chance of that happening.
Gallardo was tagged for five runs in the fifth inning, and the Rangers were held to one run by lefty Sean Nolin in six innings as the Athletics knocked off Texas 5-3.
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The loss dropped the Rangers to just 5-9 against the last-place Athletics, including 2-6 at Globe Life Ballpark. The good news for Texas was that both Houston and Minnesota lost, leaving the Rangers 1 Â½ games behind Houston for the American League West lead and one up on Minnesota in the wild-card hunt.
That was about it for positives though Saturday.
The Rangers showed signs of life early as Mike Napoli homered off Nolin in the second to stake Gallardo to a 1-0 lead. He allowed just two hits in the first four innings before things went awry in a big way in the fifth inning.
After retiring the first hitter, Gallardo gave up five-consecutive hits including two home runs. A three-run homer by Mark Canha was more than enough offense for Oakland, but two batters later Danny Valencia added a two-run shot.
That homer ended the night for Gallardo in an inning in which he threw 29 pitches to retire one batter. He was charged with five runs in his 4 1/3 innings and continued a trend of short starts for him. He hasn't pitched into the seventh inning since June and Saturday he didn't give the Rangers a chance.
"I just didn't have the fastball command," said Gallardo, who had his shortest outing since July 25. "It was a battle for sure, from the first inning to the first hitter. I was able to get out of jams in the innings before that, but I wasn't able to do it. I left a curveball over the middle of the plate (to Canha). I tried to throw it away and it stayed up a bit."
The offense did nothing to help Gallardo though against Nolin, who had made just three appearances in the major leagues over the last three seasons. But the left-hander allowed just one run on five hits in 5 2/3 innings.
The Rangers had never seen Nolin, and they weren't able to make adjustments at the plate as the game progressed against him. The Rangers are now 25-28 against left-handed starters and the last two losses have come to Nolin and Vidal Nuno.
"They've been challenging for us," Texas manager Jeff Banister said. "It hasn't been just this week, they've been challenging for us most of the year. To get to where we want to go we've got to able to compete against left-handers, we've got to be able to swing the bat against left-handers, we've got to be able to drive in runs against left-handers. I believe there's left-handers throughout the league. We've got to find a way to be able to produce some runs against left-handed pitching."
The Rangers have to hope that's the case as Oakland throws left-hander Felix Doubront Sunday and Houston will go with standout left-handers Dallas Kuechel and Scott Kazmir in the big four-game series in Arlington this week.