The Achilles' heel for the Texas Rangers through the first month of the 2018 season has been relief pitching.
That situation reared its ugly head again Monday when two relievers allowed six runs in the ninth inning to all but hand the Oakland Athletics a 9-4 victory in the opening game of a three-game series at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas.
Texas will try to get some much-needed innings from its starting pitching as ace left-hander Cole Hamels (1-3, 4.76 ERA) opposes Athletics right-hander Andrew Triggs (1-0, 5.82) in the second game of the series on Tuesday.
The Rangers are 0-8 in series-opening games this season, have won back-to-back games just once and are just 3-11 at home.
"We need some length and some multiple innings from some guys," Texas manager Jeff Banister said after Monday's loss. "The past four days everybody in the bullpen has thrown quite a bit and we haven't created a lot of scoring opportunities for ourselves. All that kind of caught up with us tonight."
The Texas bullpen ranks 13th of 15 teams in the American League in ERA.
The Athletics piled up the extra-base hits in the ninth inning on Monday, getting a home run from Marcus Semien (on the first pitch of the inning), and RBI triples by Matt Chapman and Jake Smolinski in the final inning.
"Team morale is through the roof right now," A's right-hander Daniel Mengden said. "We're playing well, we're hitting well, we're playing good defense, we're throwing well."
The win for Oakland was its third in a row and seventh in the past eight games. It is now above .500 at 12-11 for the season.
"We've just got to ride the wave out as long as we can and get timely hits," said Oakland designated hitter Khris Davis, who had a double and two RBIs early in the game. "The pitching has been fantastic so we want to be putting up runs. Couldn't ask for anything more."
Triggs is scheduled to make his fifth start of the season. He allowed six runs in 1 1/3 innings in his last start after allowing five runs in 15 2/3 innings (2.87 ERA) in his first three starts.
Triggs is 1-0 with a 1.02 ERA in four career appearances, including three starts, against Texas. That line includes a no-decision in his only start against the Rangers this year, a 3-1 A's win on April 2 in Oakland.
Hamels will get his sixth start of the season and will be working on extended five days' rest after taking the loss in a 4-2 Texas setback on April 18 in Tampa Bay. Hamels has never finished April with four losses in his 13 professional seasons (1-3 in 2013 and 3-3 in 2008).
Hamels is 3-3 with a 4.11 ERA (21 ER/46.0 IP) in eight career starts against the Athletics. He snapped a two-game losing streak against the A's in a 4-1 Texas victory on April 3 in Oakland.