Sunday, May 2, 2010
Ranger reax: Wilson, Murphy lead way
By Richard Durrett
SEATTLE -- The Rangers are beginning to like the extra-inning affairs. They won their second of the series, sweeping the Mariners in the process to take a half-game lead in the AL West.
It was Texas' first sweep in Seattle since April 1999, when the club played its final series at the Kingdome.
Once again, it was good starting pitching and timely hitting that got it done. C.J. Wilson did pitch into jams and had runners on base in all but two innings, but he limited the damage. The fourth was the best example. Wilson gave up two singles and a double to put runners at second and third and give the Mariners a 1-0 lead. But Wilson pitched out of it, getting a strikeout and fly out with the bases loaded to prevent a big inning.
It was Wilson's fifth consecutive quality start to begin this season, just one shy of Kevin Brown's franchise record of six in 1993. Wilson went seven innings and threw 114 pitches, his most in 2010. But he allowed just the one run and kept his team in it despite a sterling pitching performance from Mariners right-hander Doug Fister.
Turns out, the Rangers just needed to get Fister off the mound. He threw 100 pitches in eight shutout innings and gave way to closer David Aardsma. Elvis Andrus drew a leadoff walk on nine pitches and stole second base. David Murphy then drove him in to tie the score.
"I had faced Aardsma five times and thought I'd get a first pitch fastball," Murphy said. "I just wanted something I could drive."
Murphy wasn't through. He came up with Julio Borbon at third in the 11th and delivered the key sacrifice fly off Mark Lowe that gave the Rangers the lead.
“The only pressure in that situation is the pressure that you put on yourself,” Murphy said. “What made it challenging was the guy out there throwing 97. But if you let him supply the power and take an easy swing, which I tried to do, it works.”
* The key play of the game was Andrus' nine-pitch walk in the ninth inning. The Rangers weren't able to put anything together off Fister, but Andrus' walk off Aardsma gave them a boost. Andrus said he just wanted to work the count and find his pitch.
“I knew when it was 2-2 that he was probably going to throw fastballs,” Andrus said. “So I fouled some off and when it got to 3-2, I was looking at my zone. He threw one high.”
Andrus said he didn't hestitate to steal second.
"I wanted to get over there and he has a high leg kick, so I went," Andrus said.
He scampered home on Murphy's single. It was the kind of manufactured run that makes a difference in a close game.
* RHP Neftali Feliz, part of the Rangers' two-man closing crew (Frank Francisco got the save on Saturday), came in and didn't waste any time. He earned an eight-pitch save on his 22nd birthday. He's the first Ranger to earn a save on his birthday since Francisco Cordero on May 11, 2004.
* Feliz had his velocity up -- I saw one clocked at 98 -- and attacked the hitters. The Mariners were swinging in an attempt to get something they could hit early in the count, but hit it right at people. Feliz also had a three-pitch strikeout of Milton Bradley. That's big save for Feliz as the Rangers appear to have two guys that can close games and are gaining confidence recently. Feliz still has to prove he can pitch on back-to-back days, but his approach was solid Sunday.
* Ian Kinsler was 1-for-4 with a walk. He's hitting .333 (4-for-12) in his first three games this season.
* Ron Washington was pleased with his outfield defense too. Borbon made a nice running catch to end the fourth and Josh Hamilton had a good throw to keep runners at second and third in that same inning.
* Check out some other game thoughts here.