The Texas Rangers overcame their recent struggles for one day, but the woes were restored in dramatic fashion Wednesday night in an extra-inning loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, costing them possession of the AL's top wild-card spot.
They seek a bounce-back victory behind Yu Darvish on Thursday night at Tropicana Field, but he'll likely need better run support than he's seen lately as he faces Matt Moore in a showdown between two of the league's top arms.
Texas (82-69) ended a seven-game losing streak with Tuesday's 7-1 win, but resumed its September lull with a 4-3 loss to the Rays in 12 innings on Wednesday. The Rangers are 3-13 this month, while the Rays (86-68) have won five of their last seven to overtake them in the wild-card hunt with a one-game advantage.
Desmond Jennings provided the game-winning single in the 12th inning, redeeming himself for a misplayed ball in center field that gave Texas a 2-0 lead in the second inning.
"I want to believe this game has to give us some kind of impetus moving forward," manager Joe Maddon said.
Meanwhile, Texas owns a one-half game edge over Cleveland for the league's second wild-card spot.
"If it was the last game and we weren't in it because of it, that would be the toughest loss," said closer Joe Nathan, who suffered his third blown save in the 11th inning after allowing Tampa Bay to tie the game at 3. "But we're still in the postseason aren't we? I can't see how this can be the toughest loss. We get another opportunity tomorrow."
That opportunity comes with Darvish (12-9, 2.79 ERA) on the mound. The right-hander ranks third in the AL in ERA but is winless in his last six outings - and enters this contest with a career-worst four-start losing streak - despite compiling a 3.38 ERA with 49 strikeouts in 40 innings.
He received eight runs of support in the first four games in that stretch, then was the loser in 1-0 results in each of the last two.
"I can't control it. I can't do anything about it. The only thing I can do is concentrate on the batter in front of me," Darvish said through an interpreter, insisting that he has no frustration.
Darvish allowed one earned run over 15 innings in two starts versus Tampa Bay last year, going 1-0.
Moore (15-3, 3.11) would also rank among the league's ERA leaders but hasn't thrown enough innings to qualify after missing more than a month with elbow soreness.
He's been stellar since returning, limiting opponents to one earned run over 14 2-3 innings in three starts. However, his last outing was limited to three innings due to a 2 hour, 4 minute rain delay in a 7-0 victory at Minnesota on Saturday.
"Hopefully it will benefit me just this week," Moore said. "As far as my side work goes, hopefully I should be a little less sore those days."
Moore threw 5 1-3 innings of one-hit ball in a 2-0 win at Texas on April 10, though he matched a career high with six walks.
No Ranger has more than three at-bats versus Moore except Alex Rios, who is 1 for 11 with eight strikeouts.
Wil Myers extended his hitting streak to eight games with a single on Wednesday.
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