Free passes costly for Barnette, Rangers

Free passes costly for Barnette, Rangers

TORONTO -- The Rangers' bullpen has been an area of concern all season, and that concern was at the forefront of Texas' 4-3 walk-off loss against the Blue Jays on Wednesday.

The Texas bullpen came into the outing short-handed, after relievers Sam Dyson and Shawn Tolleson had worked in back-to-back outings to open the series. With the game on the line and the score tied at 3 in the ninth, manager Jeff Banister turned to 32-year-old rookie Tony Barnette to face the heart of the Blue Jays' lineup.

Barnette loaded the bases on a single and two walks, sandwiched around a popout, before giving up the walk-off single to Russell Martin.

"I lost a little bit of control and it kind of got away from me there," said Barnette, who picked up his first big league victory in the series opener. "I issued a couple free passes and I just can't do that."

Barnette's struggles highlighted what's been a trying start to the season for the bullpen in an otherwise strong beginning to the season for the Rangers. Texas has received five-plus innings from its starters in every single game and in 29 straight games dating to last year, yet the bullpen entered Wednesday with a 4.95 ERA and lost its league-high ninth game.

"It's obviously tough," Banister said after the loss. "It's not what we showed up to do.

"The two walks really got us in trouble with the bases loaded, and it looked like it was a slider that backed up on him that Martin was able to hit out there."

The loss was the Rangers' second consecutive walk-off defeat, after dropping a 3-1 decision to Toronto in 10 innings on Tuesday, and the fifth loss in the last at-bat, after surrendering six all of last year.

It also marked the first time since April 12-13, 2011, that the team lost back-to-back games in walk-off fashion.

All the while, the Rangers' starting pitching continues to give the team a chance to win nightly. Starter Colby Lewis went seven innings and gave up three runs and has worked at least six innings in every start this season. The veteran was quick to take responsibility himself, walking Jose Bautista and then giving up Edwin Encarnacion's two-run shot to tie the score in the sixth.

"I felt like if I don't walk Bautista there, I get him out and I could have possibly had a quick seventh inning and maybe even pitch into the eighth," Lewis said. "Like I said, walks kill you, and I threw about six, seven pitches in the Bautista at-bat, and it was just unfortunate."

Lewis, however, also pointed out that he believes this Rangers club is different than years past, and the players will pick each other up and bounce back from their rough stretch.

"This is the type of team where we don't worry about stuff, we go out there, play hard every day and put runs on the board," Lewis said. "We've been doing it all year. Not much rattles us, so we're not worried about it."

Alykhan Ravjiani is a reporter for MLB.com and covered the Rangers on Wednesday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.