ARLINGTON, Texas -- When Scott Feldman returned recently from a blister injury, he said the downer of long relief is that as badly as you want to pitch you know that if you do pitch it means the starter has been knocked out early.
Well, Feldman was on the mound for the second time in five games, and for a third consecutive time in this four-game series against the Boston Red Sox, the Rangers fell behind by six runs early. This time, Alexi Ogando (12-6) gave up the long ball -- four big blasts (a career high for Ogando), one in each of the first four innings, including two to Adrian Gonzalez and both on first-pitch fastballs.
Concern isn't limited to the mound but at the plate, too. After Thursday's 6-0 loss, giving Texas four losses in five games by a combined 40-11 count, the offense flat-lined and is in full-on sputter mode.
And with the drop off, that seven-game lead Texas enjoyed after taking three of four from the Los Angeles Angels a week ago is all the way back down to two games, the size of the lead when the Rangers left for Oakland to start that 10-game road trip. The Angels, winners of six in a row, did not play Thursday.
One positive Thursday night was Feldman's long relief outing. After coughing up five runs in 4 2/3 innings in the 10-0 loss at Chicago on Sunday, his first outing since Aug. 5 when he left with the blister, Feldman tossed four scoreless innings and allowed just two hits. He struck out three and walked one. Mike Adams added a quick ninth inning, allowing a lead-off single before recording three consecutive outs.
Now to the laundry list of negatives and a big-time slumping offense:
*The Rangers finished with three hits, the eighth consecutive game in which Texas finished with eight or fewer hits, the longest such streak since eight straight from April 15-23 of last season. The Rangers are 2-6 during this current stretch.
*They have had fewer than nine hits in five consecutive home games, the longest streak of that kind in a season since September 2009.
*Red Sox starter Andrew Miller, who entered the game with a 4.99 ERA, found himself in a jam just once in the sixth inning. He got out of it by striking out Josh Hamilton for a third consecutive time. The latter came with one out and runners on first and third. Hamilton worked an 0-2 count to 3-2 but then swung and missed at a 94 mph fastball. Elvis Andrus, who was on first, was running on the pitch and was easily gunned down at second for an inning-ending double play.
*Hamilton finished 0-for-4. He finally made contact with a line-drive out to right in the ninth. It dropped his average to .298, his first dip below .300 since July 27.
*A day off didn't spark much life into Nelson Cruz's bat. He did manage a seeing-eye single through the hole on the left side in the seventh inning. He finished 1-for-4 with two strikeouts. In his last seven games, Cruz is now 4-for-27 and is 15-for-72 in his last 19 games.
*Mike Napoli, manning first base Thursday, had a rare off night at the plate. After accounting for the Rangers' only two runs Wednesday and homering in two of the last three games, he struck out swinging in his first three at-bats.
*Before Cruz singled in the seventh inning, the Rangers' 3-4-5-6 hitters -- Hamilton, Michael Young, Cruz and Napoli -- were a combined 1-for-9.
*Miller, the Red Sox lefty, lasted 6 1/3 innings, his longest outing of the season. He retired the Rangers in order in three of the first six innings, allowing just two hits. After retiring Young on a line drive to center field, Cruz singled to left to end Miller's night, but not before he struck out six. In three previous starts this month, Miller had a combined eight strike outs.
*The Rangers have lost three in a row at home for the first time in more than a year dating back to the at four-game sweep to Baltimore when Cliff Lee arrived.