"This definitely hurts," shortstop Michael Young said in the Rangers' somber clubhouse afterward. "It's up to us to have a more consistent effort. Yeah, you can say we played well late in the game, but we didn't play well early. We fought back late, but the only way we're going to be a championship team is to play a complete game. We can't be satisfied just battling back."
This was the Rangers' first extra-innings game of the year, and they ended up setting a club record by striking out 19 times. Hank Blalock and Brad Wilkerson led the way with four strikeouts each, but every spot in the order whiffed at least once. The Rangers also struck out to end every inning from the fourth on.
"We might have struck out 19 times, but we still had a chance to win the ballgame," manager Ron Washington said. "You don't like to see that, but we still had a chance to win the ballgame, so the strikeouts didn't bother me at all."
The biggest play of the game was not a strikeout, but second baseman Ian Kinsler's miscalculation on a potential double-play grounder in the second inning. The Indians, in a scoreless game, had the bases loaded and one out at the time.
Kinsler was trying to get out of the inning without a run crossing the plate. Washington would have been happy with one run scoring. It turned out to be much worse than that for the Rangers and starter Vicente Padilla, who is still looking for his first victory after five starts.
"I'm hoping things will change and I'll start having a little more luck," Padilla said. "I'm pitching the way I want. Things aren't coming my way these games but I feel fine, I feel strong. Things are going to get better."
Padilla started the trouble by hitting Ryan Garko with a pitch, and Trot Nixon followed with a single into the left-center gap. Garko went to third on the play and Nixon went to second when Wilkerson made an ill-advised throw to third. That left first base open and Jhonny Peralta drew a walk to load the bases.
Shin Soo Choo followed with a grounder to Kinsler, who charged the ball and fielded it in the basepath in front of Peralta. Kinsler wanted to tag Peralta and then throw to first for an inning-ending double play.
But Peralta stopped, backpedaled and avoided the tag, prompting Kinsler instead to throw to first. But the throw was wild and got past first baseman Mark Teixeira for a two-base error.
Washington said that once Peralta backpedaled to first, Kinsler should have thrown to first to get the sure out. Then the Rangers would have Peralta in a rundown for the third out. One run would have counted, but the inning would have been over.
"It was an inexperienced mistake," Washington said. "He'll learn from it."
Two runs scored on the play. Josh Barfield's grounder scored another and a two-out single by Grady Sizemore made it 4-0. Sizemore stole second and scored on Casey Blake's single to give the Indians a 5-0 lead.
"When they got the five in the second, I knew if we could just stay in the hunt, things would work out," Washington said. "We had our chances in the eighth and ninth and it just didn't work out."
The Rangers scored five in the sixth inning on a three-run home run by Kinsler and a two-run double by Sammy Sosa to get back in the game. Choo singled home a run for the Indians in the bottom of the seventh, but Sosa had a two-out RBI single in the eighth and Young drove home the tying run with a two-out double in the ninth off closer Joe Borowski.
The Rangers just couldn't take the lead. Roberto Hernandez struck out Wilkerson with the bases loaded to end the eighth, and Borowski struck out Matt Kata with two on to end the ninth. Kata had entered the game as a pinch-runner for Sosa in the eighth, and Indians manager Eric Wedge put him on the spot by walking Teixeira after Young's game-tying double.
"If somebody hit a gapper, I wanted a run. When that position came back up, I thought Matt could get their guy," Washington said of using Kata for Sosa.
He didn't. Instead, the Rangers ended their record-setting strikeout night by striking out in six of their last eight at-bats.
"It was painful, especially the way we battled back," center fielder Jerry Hairston said. "We just couldn't get over the hump. We know we're going to hit, it's just frustrating because we want to hit."