ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The mark of these Texas Rangers the last two years had been one of a team that rarely lost its composure. It was a team that made smart decisions in the field, didn't allow rough innings or games to frustrate them too much and did the little things better than everyone else.
But for the last few weeks, the Rangers haven't been the crisp, solid team that everyone has come to expect. That included Saturday night, in a strange, mistake-filled 3-2 loss to the Angels. All of that was the reason for a team meeting that lasted about 15 minutes after the game.
Manager Ron Washington did most of the talking, though a few players spoke as well. Washington told his team that it was time to get back to playing the kind of consistent, focused baseball that has been the mark of this team during its runs to the World Series. He felt the lack of execution was showing up more on the defensive end than anywhere else.
"We're a better baseball team than we've shown," Washington said. "It's up to them to show that. Those things come into focus when we're not playing the way we want to play."
Washington called Saturday's game "a very ugly performance," and said he expects better.
"We pride ourselves on playing defense," Washington said. "It was the defense that killed us out there tonight. That's something we've got to get back to playing and playing very consistently."
That didn't happen Saturday and the Angels took advantage, getting closer to the Rangers' rear bumper at just 3.5 games back, the closest the division race has been since May 6.
Texas bobbled and dropped balls, made errant throws and argued with umpires. A bases-loaded, no-out situation -- usually one the Rangers' offense feasts on -- turned into just a one-run inning. Even Gold Glove third baseman Adrian Beltre wasn't immune, dropping a ball as he thought about throwing home to try to get a runner.
Strange things happened, too. Elvis Andrus didn't throw to first after he believed a bouncing ball to short hit runner Erick Aybar on the jersey in the seventh. Aybar was called safe and Mike Trout, who hit the ball, got to first without a throw. Washington talked with Andrus in the dugout after the innning.
"He told me I have to continue the play, make the throw and then argue about the call," Andrus said. "That's something I'll learn from. That's never happened to me before in my career."
Later that same inning, Nelson Cruz threw a bullet to catcher Yorvit Torrealba, who tagged Trout sliding into home. Trout was called safe and Torrealba couldn't believe it. He jumped up and down and created such a scene that it took home plate umpire Tim McClelland just a few seconds to eject him. Replays showed it as a close play.
"I thought he was out, period," Torrealba said. "I thought the throw beat him. I was trying to block the plate. I don't think he (McClelland) was in the right position to tell if he was out or safe. In a close game like that, it was an emotional play and I went off. It was so fast. I haven't even watched the replay. I know I tagged him for a fact. By the time I was trying to tag, I don't think he had even slid (across the plate) yet. I could be wrong. I thought he was definitely out."
McClelland said he thought Trout's foot hit the plate before Torrealba tagged him. Asked if his view was blocked because he was moving to try to get a look at it, McClelland said no.
Texas ended up with three errors in the game, but other mistakes weren't called errors. Torrealba had a passed ball. Yu Darvish, who pitched well, seemed to forget about Albert Pujols at second base in the sixth and allowed him to get to third base without a throw on a strikeout. Darvish also bobbled a bunt attempt down the first base line in the seventh and was unable to make a throw. First baseman Mike Napoli dropped a liner, preventing him from having a chance at a double play and he later battled the wind and couldn't catch a popup in the sixth. He tried to throw to second to get Pujols on that play, but Pujols was called safe (replays appeared to show he was out).
"You guys saw it, but if we play our style of baseball and we do what we're capable of, it doesn't matter," Kinsler said. "Those things come into focus when we're not playing the way we want to play."
Many players understood that the team has been scuffling for a few weeks. They still lead the division and are one of the top teams in the league, but they know they haven't played like it recently.
"We haven't been playing like ourselves for a few weeks now," outfielder David Murphy said. "Those are great times to come together and hit the reset button. The message was clear that we haven't been playing like we play. I think, especially on the defensive end. It happens. It's happened at times during the course of the past few years and it's time to turn it around."
They'll begin that quest Sunday afternoon.