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June 06, 2013

Michael Kirkman: 'I'm hanging on. I don't know by how much.'

Rangers reliever Michael Kirkman said that he isn't thinking about his season-long struggles whenever he is in a game, but admits that at other times his woes are on his mind.

He'll have more to contemplate after surrendering a walk-off three-run homer to David Ortiz on Thursday night in a 6-3 Boston victory.

"I'm hanging on," Kirkman said. "I don't know by how much."

Manager Ron Washington turned to Kirkman after using Robbie Ross, Jason Frasor and Tanner Scheppers in the seventh and eighth innings. Ross got in trouble in the seventh, and the Red Sox tied the game when the Rangers couldn't turn a double play on a Mike Napoli grounder.

First baseman Lance Berkman skipped a throw into second base, which allowed Napoli to beat the return throw.

Neal Cotts was unavailable, and road teams typically don't use their closers in tie games. That left Kirkman and Ross Wolf.

"Kirkman was the most rested," Washington said. "He was the guy."

The first Kirkman pitch was smacked to the center-field wall for a double by Jonny Gomes. Kirkman than intentionally walked Dustin Pedroia to get to Ortiz in a left-on-left matchup. Ortiz hit the first first into the Rangers' bullpen.

"Inside fastball right where I wanted it," Kirkman said. "Apparently he was sitting on that pitch."

Kirkman said his confidence is rattled. He has the highest ERA (8.18) among American League qualifying relievers and has allowed 10 hits and six runs in his past two innings.

"I'm thinking about it," he said. "When I get in there, I'm ready to go. My mind is clear, and I'm focused on the next pitch."

Pitching coach Mike Maddux said that all pitchers go through rough stretches, and that Kirkman will just have to "persevere."

"You have to fight through it, and it's not easy," Maddux said. "It's part of the game."

-- Jeff Wilson

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