ARLINGTON, Texas -- It was bad enough when the Rangers were losing two out of three games in series versus Minnesota, Oakland and the Los Angeles Angels.
How does a three-game sweep at the hands of the Pittsburgh Pirates grab you in September?
The Rangers plummeted to 2-8 for the month and have lost nine of their last 12 games as they continue to make life difficult for themselves with the American League West and wild-card playoff spots on the line.
AL West race: The Rangers will have to wait and see if Oakland can build on its 2 1/2-game lead in the division. The A's play at Minnesota on Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon, so the Rangers could be down 3 1/2 games in the West when their three-game series starts against Oakland in Arlington on Friday. The Rangers began Wednesday with a four-game lead for the final wild-card spot, with several teams chasing them playing night games.
Closing the gap: The Rangers scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh but left the tying run at third base. A.J. Pierzynski started the inning with a double. With one out, Jurickson Profar singled to put runners at first and third, and then David Murphy had an RBI single to cut the Pirates' lead to 6-3. Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus followed with line-drive singles to center field to trim Pittsburgh's lead to 6-5. In the second of two key at-bats, Alex Rios, the Rangers' hottest hitter recently, flied out to left field with runners at first and third.
Repeat of Tuesday: The Rangers couldn't come up with a clutch hit in the late innings. They had the tying runs on base in the bottom of the eighth after a single by Adrian Beltre and a walk to Mitch Moreland, but Vin Mazzaro struck out Profar looking and Murphy grounded out to first on the 10th pitch of his at-bat.
Sixth-inning uprising: The Rangers cut Pittsburgh's lead in half in the bottom of the sixth. Murphy and Leonys Martin opened the inning by drawing walks. Kinsler then had the Rangers' second hit of the game with a single to left field. Andrus delivered a single off the glove of Pirates shortstop Clint Barmes to score Murphy and Martin, cutting the Pirates' lead to 4-2. Starter A.J. Burnett stopped the Rangers right there. With runners at first and second, he induced a double-play ball from Rios and then got Beltre to fly out to right field to end the inning.
Garza disaster: Matt Garza had already been a disappointment overall in nine starts since being traded to the Rangers. His 10th start was a debacle. Garza walked the leadoff hitter in back-to-back innings early, and both runners scored. He walked the Pirates' No. 9 hitter, Felix Pie, to start the top of the third. Pie stole second and scored on Neil Walker's single to center field for a 1-0 lead. The top of the fourth was worse for Garza. He allowed the first four batters to reach base, starting with a walk to Pedro Alvarez. Garza loaded the bases and walked Clint Barmes to force in a run to make it 2-0. After Garza struck out Pie, Andrus booted a tailor-made double-play ball as the Pirates took a 3-0 lead. Garza threw 89 pitches and was out of the game after four innings.
Tough day for bullpen: Garza's inability to go past the fourth inning put the game in the hands of the bullpen which didn't keep Pittsburgh at three runs. Joseph Ortiz allowed a run on two hits in the fifth inning as the Rangers fell behind 4-0. The combination of Ortiz, Jason Frasor and Neal Cotts gave up two runs in the top of the seventh after the Rangers cut the lead to 6-2. That included a wild pitch by Cotts that plated the second run in the inning. After the Rangers cut the lead to 6-5 in the bottom of the seventh, Tanner Scheppers allowed Barmes' fifth home run of the season in the top of the eighth to give Pittsburgh a two-run lead.
Up next: The Rangers get a much-needed off day Thursday, their final one of the season, before beginning a 17-game stretch run that starts with American League West leader Oakland. The pitching matchups for the series are: Friday, left-hander Derek Holland (9-8, 3.17 ERA) versus right-hander Dan Straily (9-7, 4.15); Saturday, right-hander Yu Darvish versus right-hander Bartolo Colon (15-6, 2.85); and Sunday, left-hander Martin Perez (9-4, 3.60) versus right-hander Jarrod Parker (11-6, 3.55).