Texas manager Bruce Bochy felt the Rangers had everything set up nicely to go to Will Smith with a one-run lead in the eighth inning.
Things went sideways in a hurry, especially after Smith promptly walked Boston’s No. 8 hitter and gave up a double to the ninth-place batter who didn’t have a hit in his previous 17 at-bats.
Rob Refsnyder had a two-run single right after hot-hitting Rafael Devers was intentionally walked with one out, and Adam Duvall followed with a sacrifice fly. The Red Sox snapped a four-game losing streak with a 4-2 win over the playoff-chasing Rangers, who lost their fourth in a row even after getting two All-Star players back in their lineup Monday night.
“Our offense right now is sputtering a little bit and we’re living on a real fine line there,” Bochy said. “Smitty made a couple of mistakes. Looked like he had a chance to get out of it, had two strikes, and they got the big base hit. We just couldn’t separate the score earlier.”
Smith (2-7), the veteran lefty, walked Luis Urias on eight pitches before the double by Connor Wong. Devers, the left-hander already with two hits in the game off lefty starter Jordan Montgomery and 10 hits his previous 23 at-bats, was put on to load the bases ahead of Refsnyder.
“I don’t blame them. I mean it’s our best player by far. ... One of the only guys who hit Montgomery, who threw the ball so well,” Refsnyder said. “My at-bats were awful before that.”
All-Star second baseman Marcus Semien, the only Rangers player to start all 150 of their games, hit another leadoff homer and had an RBI single in the sixth for a 2-1 lead.
Texas (82-68), already guaranteed its first winning record since 2016, began the day one game ahead of Seattle for the American League’s third and final wild-card spot. But the Mariners, the division foe the Rangers play seven times in the season’s last 10 days, pulled even with a 5-0 win at Oakland later Monday night.
Texas and Seattle are both only 1 1/2 games behind AL West-leading Houston, which lost at home to AL East leader Baltimore.
The Rangers are 10-20 since Aug. 16, and their four-game losing streak came since sweeping a four-game series in Toronto to briefly pass the Blue Jays in the wild-card race. Bochy, a three-time World Series champion manager, has been at a loss to explain what has happened in recent weeks.
“As far as what I do, I stay behind them, and keep writing out the lineup. We’ve got to keep pushing here,” Bochy said. “Believe me, they’re trying. Trust me, it’s a great group here. And this was a tough one again.”
While not yet eliminated from the playoffs, the Red Sox (75-76) were at the bottom of the AL East standings and 7 1/2 games behind the final wild-card spot with only 11 games to play. Urias had an RBI single in the fifth for their other run.
Josh Winckowski (4-2) struck out three and walked two in a scoreless seventh for Boston after starter Kutter Crawford had seven strikeouts without a walk and allowed two runs over six innings. Chris Martin struck out two in the ninth, his 19th consecutive scoreless appearance and only second save.
Rangers rookie third baseman Josh Jung and slugging right fielder Adolis Garcia were both activated from the injured list.
Jung, who was 1 for 4 with a single in the ninth inning, had been out six weeks with a fractured left thumb. Garcia went 0 for 3 with a walk and two strikeouts after missing 10 games with a patellar tendon strain in his right knee.
It was the first time since July 21, the night shortstop Corey Seager exited with a sprained right thumb and missed nine games, that the Rangers had in their lineup all five of their position players who started for the American League in the All-Star Game on July 11. Switch-hitting catcher Jonah Heim also had an IL stint since then.
SEMIEN’S QUICK HITS
Semien’s 25th homer of the season came on the first pitch thrown by Crawford. His AL-best ninth leadoff homer in a first inning for Semien extended his single-season franchise record. It was the third time this month he hit a leadoff homer on the first pitch.
Trade deadline acquisition Montgomery struck out eight without any walks while allowing one run over seven innings in his ninth start for the Rangers.
Rangers All-Star right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, who was with the Red Sox the past five seasons, pitches against them Tuesday night in the middle game of the series. It is only the fourth start for Eovaldi (11-4, 2.96 ERA) since he came off the IL after missing seven weeks with a right forearm strain. Right-hander Tanner Houck (5-9, 4.94) goes for the Red Sox.
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