It isn't easy to narrow down the 2011 season to 12 memorable moments and we've certainly left out a few worthy candidates. You'll get a chance to share your Dazzling Dozen when we get to the end of the series. For now, it's on to our ninth-best moment.
No. 9: Late rally to beat Cleveland on Aug. 5
It was one of those games where the Rangers used speed and power to come back on the Indians in dramatic fashion late.
Here's part of my recap of the game from that night:
Elvis Andrus never glanced at third-base coach Dave Anderson as he rounded third with two outs in the 11th and Josh Hamilton racing up the first-base line. The shortstop didn't need any kind of sign. He already had made up his mind.
As soon as Andrus heard the ball crack off Hamilton's bat toward short, he was on the move. And he never stopped, sprinting down the line and sliding into home plate to cap a remarkable Rangers comeback, an 8-7 win over the Cleveland Indians on Friday.
Hamilton was safe at first base on the infield hit, sliding head first before the throw arrived. By the time the Indians realized Andrus was heading for home, it was too late. Andrus popped up from his slide and jumped into Michael Young's waiting arms. The players mobbed Andrus and the fans remaining from the 37,842 in attendance cranked up the noise.
Just after Friday's win, Rangers president and CEO Nolan Ryan came into the clubhouse with a huge grin on his face and shook hands with several of the players. That's not something he does all the time.
"Anytime you win a game like that it's big," Ryan said. "It's the thing they've always done is battle, battle, battle. It was good."
The winning play served as redemption for Andrus, who booted a routine ground ball to extend the second inning. If Andrus makes the play, Derek Holland contains the damage. But the next batter, Carlos Santana, hit a two-RBI double and manager Ron Washington had to lift his starter after only 1 2/3 innings. The bullpen came in and did the job. Scott Feldman, Yoshinori Tateyama, Mark Lowe, Mike Adams and Neftali Feliz combined to allow one run on six hits in 9 1/3 innings.
That gave the Rangers time to engineer a comeback. They sliced into the lead with two runs in the sixth and headed into the bottom of the ninth against Cleveland closer Chris Perez down 7-5. With two outs, Hamilton hit a single to right to extend the inning for Young. The veteran hitter got a 2-0 count and was just trying to drive something.
"I just wanted to hit something hard," Young said. "Their 'pen has been doing a great job all season long and they have a really quality closer, so I was just trying to be as short as I could to the ball. I wasn't trying to get too big. I want to hit a ball hard and give Nellie [Nelson Cruz] a shot."
The ball flew out and Young floated around the bases. The tying blast gave the Rangers the momentum heading into extra innings. Adams and Feliz combined to keep the Indians from scoring, setting up Andrus' play.
"As soon as I saw the ball was hit, I thought he'd be safe, so I wanted to take my chances," Andrus said.
Hamilton, meanwhile, turned to look behind him to see what was happening at home plate.
"As soon as I slid, I turned to look because I saw the first baseman come up and throw and I saw the throw didn't get him," Hamilton said. "So I started beating the ground in excitement. I knew that if they made the throw to first that he was going to keep going. I'm just glad I was safe and he was too."
What it meant: It was the club's largest comeback in nearly a year (Aug. 13, 2010 vs. Boston) and the team's fourth win in 2011 when trailing in the ninth inning. It was the Rangers' fifth walk-off win and in three of those they trailed after eight innings.
The aftermath: That was the first of 11 wins in 14 games for the Rangers, allowing them to keep the Angels in their rearview mirror.