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Washington's plan unravels in an instant

4/9/2014

BOSTON -- Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington had the entire situation planned out.

With runners on first and second and no outs in a one-run game, Washington would stick with reliever Alexi Ogando. Despite starting the inning by giving up a walk and a pinch-hit single, Ogando had looked his best in years, striking out four consecutive batters before issuing the walk, and hitting 96 mph on the radar gun. Washington was impressed with the downward movement of Ogando's fastball, hoping he could get one last double play.

In the 24 defensive innings the team had played before the eighth, the Rangers had already turned 10 double plays, one short of the major league record for a three-game series, according to data compiled by the Elias Sports Bureau. If Ogando could induce just one more while facing Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, he could intentionally walk the ever-dangerous David Ortiz and Washington could stick with Ogando to get out of the inning.

"That was the situation, of course," Washington said. "Don't pitch to David right there."

In case he did have to face Ortiz, Washington had left-hander Neal Cotts ready in the bullpen. Cotts had faced Ortiz six times before, striking him out in five of those appearances and walking him in the other. For all intents and purposes, those were all the right moves. In the end, however, the Rangers got the wrong result.

Shortstop Elvis Andrus bobbled a potential double-play ball off the bat of Pedroia, only getting one out. That allowed Ortiz to face Cotts and he launched a 1-and-1 fastball over the Pesky Pole in right field for a three-run homer that gave the Red Sox a 4-2 lead. Before Washington could blink, his entire plan had fallen apart.

"At the end we had the lead so all of [the little mistakes beforehand] didn't matter," Washington said. "We had the lead. We've got to shut that down."

A night after scoring 10 runs and getting 13 hits, the Rangers' offense was held in check by Red Sox starter Jake Peavy through the game's first six innings. Peavy had given up only two hits with seven strikeouts and looked as dominant as he was in 2007, when he won the National League Cy Young Award.

"I thought he had good stuff, a lot of strikes," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "When you have three pitches with strikes, it's a day you're likely to get through the lineup three times."

Facing Peavy for the third time to lead off the seventh, first baseman Mitch Moreland drilled a 2-0 fastball over the wall in right field to tie the score at 1-1. Back out for the seventh after getting two outs to bail starter Robbie Ross out of trouble in the sixth, Ogando disposed of the Red Sox easily, striking out the side in order.

Andrus led off the next inning with a double, moving to third on a groundout by Prince Fielder and sliding headfirst into home to score on a sacrifice fly by Alex Rios to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead. Andrus was poised to be the hero until the ball was hit toward him in the bottom of the inning by Pedroia.

A liner off the bat, the ball took a hop on Andrus that forced the shortstop to knock it to the ground instead of fielding it cleanly. Andrus was able to recover in time to get the out at second but the precious opportunity to get two outs was missed.

"That's a tough play, [Pedroia] smoked the ball pretty good," Washington said. "Elvis slid over there and just couldn't come up with it."

Said Andrus: "In that situation, I was glad that at least we got one out. Every time a ground ball is hit to me I want to make an out. I want to make a double play, especially in that situation, but at least I got one and keep the team out there ready for the next one."

The next one was Ortiz, who, instead of being walked, got to face Cotts with two on. Cotts tried to fire a fastball inside on the hands of Ortiz to prevent the slugger from extending his arms, but did not locate the pitch where he wanted to.

"It was decently in there, it was just down," Cotts said. "Not a good place to throw a fastball, down and in to him.

"It's real disheartening, we fought our butts off to get that lead. To come out there and blow it for the team, that's what sucks about it. Everybody pitched well, played well, except [me]."

With the ball going over the foul pole, Washington urged for a review, but the challenge was unsuccessful. With one swing Ortiz had unraveled Washington's plan to preserve the Rangers' lead into the ninth.

Instead, the Rangers became the 24th victim of a go-ahead home run from Ortiz in the eighth inning or later. It's a feeling they are all too familiar with as they were on the receiving end of No. 23 only 10 months earlier (June 6, 2013).

"He's good, no doubt about it," Washington said. "I felt comfortable with Neal up there against him. David won."