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Sunday, July 3, 2011
Bullpen again can't hold a late lead

By Richard Durrett

ARLINGTON, Texas -- For the fifth time in the 2011 season, the Rangers lost when leading after seven innings. And they have now lost 18 games when leading at some point, nearly half of the team's 41 defeats.

It was another bullpen breakdown Sunday. Hours after being named to the All-Star team, C.J. Wilson looked like an All-Star, going 7 1/3 innings and allowing two runs (one earned) with one walk and nine strikeouts. And he got a no-decision.

Such is how things go when the bullpen falters in a close game. Mark Lowe came in with a runner at third and one out in the eighth and appeared poised to pitch out of a big jam. He got Omar Infante to ground out to third with the infield in and then walked Gaby Sanchez. On a pickoff move out of Little League -- the fake throw to third and look to first -- Lowe caught Sanchez too far off the bag. But he wasn't able to make the throw in time to get him. His hesitation gave Sanchez time to recover and slide in safely ahead of the tag.

"Everytime I do that, I tell myself to expect to make a throw because you never know," Lowe said. "I can't tell you the last time I got somebody on that move. It can still catch you off guard no matter what you try to tell yourself. He was just getting his secondary lead. The ball wasn't firmly in my hand good enough to make a throw."

Lowe still had a chance to get out of the inning. He got Hanley Ramirez to hit a chopper over the mound, but shortstop Elvis Andrus couldn't make the play. That tied the score.

Darren Oliver gave up a two-RBI double with two outs and was replaced by closer Neftali Feliz despite the Rangers down 4-2 at that point. Feliz threw a pitch up in the zone on 0-2 and surrendered an RBI single. It took four pitchers to get out of that eighth inning and a game the Rangers led with two outs turned into a three-run deficit.

Manager Ron Washington had the relievers he wanted (Mike Maddux was making the pitching changes after Washington was ejected), but the club didn't execute. The bullpen now has a 4.52 ERA this season, the third-highest in the American League. Only Detroit and Minnesota are higher. The Rangers relievers have a 6.25 ERA in the last eight games.