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Rangers let homestand slip away

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Alexi Ogando blew a lead. Nelson Cruz failed twice in late-inning opportunities.

Finally, Mike Adams blew the game.

Thus, the Texas Rangers ended a homestand that began with such promise after taking a three-game series from the Los Angeles Angels by losing three of four to the Kansas City Royals and Oakland A's.

Ugh.

The Athletics rallied to beat the Rangers 5-4 in 10 innings Thursday, trimming the Rangers' AL West lead to four games, because the Rangers wasted so may opportunities.

The Rangers left 14 runners on base. They went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

In the seventh inning, right-handed pinch-hitter Brandon Snyder replaced Mitch Moreland -- who had homered twice -- and flied out with David Murphy on second.

In the ninth, with runners on first and third and one out, Cruz struck out on three pitches in one of the worst at-bats you'll ever see from a good hitter. Snyder ended the inning with a ground out.

A team gets only so many opportunities.

Then again, the Rangers seemed destined to steal a come-from-behind win when they scored a pair of runs in the sixth to take a 4-3 lead. Manager Ron Washington figured he'd use Ogando in the seventh, Adams in the eighth and closer Joe Nathan for the third consecutive day in the ninth and head off to Houston with a W.

Oh well.

Ogando had a 0.45 ERA and 20 strikeouts and had allowed just seven hits in 20 innings, but he gave up a one-out homer to right-center, proving he is human and tying the score at 4-4.

Of bigger concern to the Rangers is that they're just 7-9 in May after a 17-6 record in April. They haven't won more than two consecutive games in nearly a month.

Washington spent this week trying to shake his team from its fatigue-induced funk by giving most of his regulars at least one day off during the past four games.

The Rangers have had a pair of 10-game road trips and the last one concluded with a doubleheader in Baltimore. That was followed by two emotional games in 12 hours against the Angels.

Essentially, the Rangers played four games in about 60 hours and it beat them to a pulp.

So Washington rested Mike Napoli and Ian Kinsler on Monday and Cruz and Elvis Andrus on Tuesday. The Rangers lost both to the Royals.

Michael Young didn't play in Wednesday's win over Oakland and Josh Hamilton wasn't scheduled to play but did pinch hit in the eighth inning.

Those decisions have thrown the Rangers Nation into an upheaval. It's funny, really.

An organization wrought with apathy and irrelevance for nearly 40 years now lives and dies with every out. The passion of fans is sincere, and it's nice to see the ballpark sold out every night.

But taking a football mentality into a baseball season will drive fans crazy. The Rangers are going to lose at least 60 games this season. It took me years to understand it, but baseball is almost always about the big picture -- not the day-to-day wins and losses.

"I have a lot of respect for Kansas City and Oakland, but my guys were dragging," Washington said. "Am I supposed to let them drag at home because we have 40,000 people in the stands and rest them on the road?

"I rest them when they get fatigued. I have to take care of the guys who are going to carry us this season. If I don't, we won't have a chance at the end of the season. No chance."

The rest was important this week because the Rangers are in the midst of one of those torturous stretches in which they play 20 games in 20 days.

When it ends, they'll have a day off each of the next two weeks. For now, though, the Rangers just need to play better.

They're 9-10 in their past 19 games but have lost just a half game off their lead over the Athletics.

"It's not like we're getting blown off the field. They executed today and we didn't," Young said. "We haven't played well the last few games, but we're a veteran team and we know how to pull out of it, when things aren't going our way."

Actually, they haven't for a while, and that's the problem.

Eventually, the Rangers will fix their issues. It's simply a question of how long it takes.