ARLINGTON, Texas-- Craig Gentry is on fire.
He came through in a big way in the Rangers' 1-0 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday night, driving in the game's lone run on a single to left field with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning. In the next half inning, Gentry caught the fly out that ended the game.
"(Arizona starter Wade Miley) had been throwing fastballs all night, so that's what I was looking for," Gentry said. "Luckily, he left it out there for me. "
The Texas Rangers' part-time center fielder has excelled in every phase of the game recently. He has started in six of the last eight games, batting .500 in that stretch. He is batting .340 on the season with 34 hits, 15 RBIs and eight stolen bases. In the month of June, he is tied for third on the team in hits (11) and tied for second in RBIs (five).
He even pitched an inning against the Oakland Athletics on June 4.
"I'm enjoying it," Gentry said. "I'm just playing my game, having fun and luckily I've been able to play well. Hopefully I can keep it going and just stay confident."
Gentry has done all that's been asked of him this season and taken full advantage of every chance he's had on the diamond. Teammate Elvis Andrus has noticed Gentry's hard work.
"He's a got a lot of talent," the shortstop said. "He knows his job on this team. Every time he gets an opportunity, he's going to go out there and be aggressive."
Manager Ron Washington has also been pleased with Gentry's performance.
"In the past four or five days we’ve been having to push him into a little more action and he’s handled it well," Washington said. "He's had some big hits for us, made some good defensive plays, ran the bases. He’s using his skills."
Although Gentry has played well recently, Washington said he would still have to wait his turn before he can start more consistently.
"When you're struggling, you've got to ride your horses," Washington said. "I’m certainly not going to take my stallions out and put in some ponies. So those ponies are just going to have to eat hay until it's time. That’s the job of a utility guy. Especially when you’ve got a starting lineup that shows up every day ready to play."
Washington said that once the Rangers starters are playing at a high level consistently again, backups like Gentry can look forward to more playing time. In the meantime, he'll have to settle for taking over when guys are unhealthy.
And thanks to Gentry, the Rangers can afford to be unhealthy.
"If I’m playing well I feel like I’ll get plugged in there more than normal, but that’s definitely not my decision," Gentry said. "This game’s fun. I’m just trying to be comfortable, be confident in myself and when I get the chance, go out there and get the job done.”
It's no skin off Gentry's nose. He relishes every opportunity he gets and is content with his role.
"Just to be a part of this team is awesome," Gentry said. "Whatever I can do to help the team win, I'm going to try to do that."
He is a selfless player who puts the team first. It's a good thing, too. Because when a team has backups capable of performing as well as Gentry has, it's a huge asset to the entire clubhouse.