Rangers stumble on road after home hot streak

Rangers stumble on road after home hot streak

MINNEAPOLIS -- The first two pitches thrown by Rangers starter Nick Martinez on Wednesday night missed the strike zone. The third did not and Aaron Hicks didn't miss it either.

Hicks hit it off the front of the upper deck in deep right-center for home run, giving the Twins a 1-0 lead. The Rangers' night never got better and they have now lost four out of their last five after an 11-1 loss at Target Field.

The Rangers' latest stumble on the road to Seattle and Minnesota comes after they had won seven of eight to finish their last homestand. That surge put them back into the playoff picture. They are still there but need far more than the occasional surge to navigate their way through the pack of teams ahead of them.

"We are at the time of year where we need to string some wins together," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "I think we had five straight series that we won. We went into Seattle and had a couple of tough ballgames, a tough one last night. This one was not typical, one we don't need this time of the year. We need to play well tomorrow. We need to string together some games in all facets."

The Rangers haven't taken advantage of some opportunities presented by other teams, especially in their own division. The Astros won on Wednesday but had lost seven of their last eight prior to that. The Angels have lost three of their last four and 10 of their last 14.

"Anytime teams ahead of you lose ballgames and you lose ballgames, you feel like you have lost an opportunity to gain ground," Banister said. "We're in that stretch time of the year where it is a challenge. We have to find a way to rise to the challenge. These guys are grinding. They are trying to find the formula."

The Rangers couldn't find the formula on Wednesday. They trailed 11-0 after five innings. At that point they had as many hits at the plate as errors in the field. It was one for each side and the error was a big one.

The Twins, leading 4-0, had one on and two outs in the fourth when Joe Mauer hit a grounder up the middle that shortstop Elvis Andrus fumbled for an error. Miguel Sano followed with a three-run home run.

"Tough ball, bounding ball up the middle, right over the bag," Banister said. "One he normally makes. Nobody feels worse than he.

"Obviously this one got away from us. It's not what you look for this time of year against a team you need to play well against."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.