AAA  Jul. 3, 2014 3:40 AM ET
How Rangers no. 3 spot in the batting order this year has been historically bad
Evan Grant Follow @evan_p_grant, The Dallas Morning News (MCT)
McClatchy/Tribune - MCT Information Services
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BALTIMORE – With a chance to bury the Baltimore Orioles ahead of an incoming rainstorm, the Rangers on Wednesday sent their No. 3 hitter to the plate in the sixth inning with the bases loaded.

It was Carlos Pena.

And as the various other No. 3 hitters before him this year have done, Pena failed. It is something Rangers’ No. 3 hitters, whoever they may be, are doing at an epic rate. It led to Baltimore coming back from a three-run deficit and taking a 6-4 win that erased a solid starting debut by Miles Mikolas.

“We had chances to add on and we didn’t do it,” manager Ron Washington said. “And it came back to bite us.”

The loss pushed the Rangers 10 games below .500, a level they haven’t been since the final day of 2007, Ron Washington’s first season as manager when the team was already well into rebuilding mode.

The Rangers entered the day with a composite .586 on-base-plus-slugging percentage from the six players they’ve tried in the No. 3 spot. Consider this: Since 1917, only once has an AL team had a lower OPS from the No. 3 spot for a full-season. That’s a total 1,071 full-season comps. The good news: The New York Yankees in 1917, the only team to post a lower No. 3 OPS (.531) worse, eventually found an answer. His name was Babe Ruth.

The Rangers began the season with Prince Fielder in the No. 3 spot, but that was a long time ago in a galaxy far away.

“My number three hitter is on the DL,” Washington said when asked about the No. 3 spot. “I can only pick from what I’ve got. This is a year where things just haven’t fallen into place.”

Since Fielder went to the DL, the Rangers tried Mitch Moreland, but he flubbed than went to the DL for season-ending ankle surgery. They tried Shin-Soo Choo, but he was a disaster. Alex Rios: ditto.

With no other choices, Washington moved the 36-year-old Pena into the No. 3 spot on June 27, less than two weeks after he was signed off his couch to fill the void at first. Following his grounder to end the sixth inning, he was 1-for-19 (.053) in the spot with no walks. The only hit was a single. He is hitless in his last 15 at-bats after an 0-for-4 Wednesday.

“You just keep running them out there,” Washington said without offering up any other options for the No. 3 spot. “That’s all you can do.”

And after the inning-ending grounder, a 4-1 lead came apart at the seams.

As the lineup turned over for the third time, Mikolas walked leadoff man Nick Markakis and No. 2 hitter Steve Pearce with one out to force his exit from the game. Jason Frasor allowed a sacrifice fly and two run-scoring singles around a walk to tie the game. In the seventh, Neal Cotts allowed a leadoff homer to No. 8 hitter Ryan Flaherty to give Baltimore the lead.

The Rangers were powerless to answer. Leonys Martin made the final out of the seventh after getting picked off following a two-out single. The bottom three hitters in the lineup were retired in order in the eighth.

A few moments later, the rain started falling, the lightning started flashing and the thunder started rolling forcing a rain delay of 1:38.

When the game resumed, the No. 3 spot came up with two outs in the ninth. Manager Ron Washington sent up Adam Rosales to pinch hit for Pena. He struck out looking.

For the Rangers’ No. 3 hitters this season, it was fitting.

On Twitter: @Evan_P_Grant

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