Rangers' bullpen struggling to find 'groove'

Rangers' bullpen struggling to find 'groove'

ARLINGTON -- All year, the Rangers' bullpen has struggled to maintain leads. It showed again Wednesday night, as they lost a one-run lead in the ninth inning and dropped the series finale against the Rays, 7-5, in 10 innings.

The Rangers took the lead in the seventh, which has been an inning that has given them trouble. Before Wednesday's game, they had been outscored, 43-24, in the seventh. But this time, Alex Claudio worked a clean top half of the inning, and Elvis Andrus put Texas ahead, 4-3, with a two-out RBI double in the bottom of the frame.

Andrus' go-ahead RBI double

Rangers closer Matt Bush had allowed just two runs -- both unearned -- in his last 15 innings, and entered Wednesday with a 0.96 ERA. But with two outs in the ninth, Kevin Kiermaier turned on a 98-mph fastball from Bush and parked it in the right-field bleachers at Globe Life Park, tying the game at 4 for the Rangers' 11th blown save of the year.

"Kind of a little bit of shock there," Bush said. "I'm not used to giving up home runs on a fastball, and it happened tonight. It's a tough pill to swallow. Eventually, it will happen, and it did tonight for me. But I look forward to bouncing back and getting back on track, and we're going to win some games here. I'm not worried."

Leading off the 10th, Logan Morrison connected on a 2-0 pitch from Sam Dyson for a go-ahead homer. Derek Norris extended Tampa Bay's lead to 7-4 two batters later with a two-run home run. Dyson's ERA rose to 10.80, and he took his sixth loss -- the most by a reliever in the American League.

"There's nights [Dyson's] gone out and the sinker's been there, the velo's been there, and then there are nights it seemed like the sinker gets away from him and flattens out," manager Jeff Banister said. "The pitch to Morrison, he just got behind, and he hit a fastball out there to left field. It's obviously an extreme challenge right now."

With Keone Kela unavailable after pitching three straight days, and Dillon Gee available only as an "emergency option," the options were limited, especially with Austin Bibens-Dirkx starting the game in place of injured starter A.J. Griffin.

"These guys continue to go out and try to find that groove. It's been extremely challenging," Banister said. "Obviously, it's disappointing. These are the guys that we have, and we need to find a way to get these guys going. It's obviously been a struggle."

It was Texas' third loss of the year when leading after eight innings, and its 13th loss in games that were decided in the seventh or later.

Sam Butler is a reporter for MLB.com based in Arlington. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.