Saturday, August 18, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Rangers 2, Blue Jays 1
By Richard Durrett
The Rangers took a slim lead early and made it hold up, thanks an ability to get out of some jams late in the game. Once the Rangers got the lead, the bullpen was able to hold it (and it was difficult at times) to give Texas the 2-1 victory.
What it means: It's the club's second 2-1 win this month (they beat Detroit in dramatic fashion on Aug. 11 at home) and gives them a chance to play for the series win on Sunday. The win insures that for Oakland to remain five games back and the Angels seven behind, both teams must win tonight. ... Texas is now 69-50 on the season (they were 67-52 at this point last season, but just two games up in the AL West).
Two runs enough: For the fifth in the last six games and the seventh times in the last nine contests, the Rangers offense scored three runs or fewer. But on Saturday, they got a win (they are 2-5 in those seven games, BTW). ... The offense is still looking for a consistent stretch, but the long ball was enough thanks to great defense and the ability of the bullpen to work out of trouble.
Sun ball helps Beltre: The Rangers' third baseman hit a fly ball to right-center that appeared to be just a long out. But right fielder Anthony Gose lost it in the sun just before it came down and it bounced on the turf and bounded over the fence for a ground-rule double. That put Adrian Beltre on base to lead off the inning, giving the Rangers offense a needed spark.
Cruz missile: Nelson Cruz came up right after Beltre in the fifth and hit the first pitch he saw -- an 82 mph changeup -- over the left-center field wall for a two-run homer. It was Cruz's first home run since Aug. 8 in Boston and his fourth of the month. Cruz now has 19 homers and 72 RBIs on the season.
Oswalt's short outing goes well: Since Roy Oswalt was stepping in for Ryan Dempster, who missed his start because of personal reasons, and wasn't expected to put up a high pitch count with the short-notice start. Oswalt pitched well in 4 2/3 innings, allowing just one run on one hit. He exited, one out shy of qualyfing for a win, with 62 pitches under his belt and the tying run on second base with two outs. Colby Rasmus was the batter and manager Ron Washington opted for left-hander Robbie Ross to pitch to Rasmus, who was 5-for-12 in his career coming in against Oswalt, though 0-for-2 on two infield ground outs on Saturday. Ross retired Rasmus to end the inning. ... Oswalt issued two walks and had five strikeouts.
Kinsler makes clutch defensive play: Ian Kinsler is slumping at the plate right now -- he it hitless in his last 20 at-bats and one hit in his last 29 at-bats -- but he made a game-saving play with his glove in the sixth, diving to stop on a ball hit up the middle by Jeff Mathis. That loaded the bases, but prevented a run and the Rangers were able to get out of the jam. Kinsler's dive was fully extended to get to the quick ball on the turf. ... It appeared Kinsler would end the streak -- and drive in a run -- in the eighth. But Kelly Johnson made a great catch in shallow center to take a hit away from him.
Ross pitches out of jam: Ross created a jam and then wiggled his way out of it in the fifth. He has Kinsler to thank for that. After Kinsler's play (see above), Ross got a visit from pitching coach Mike Maddux before facing the left-handed hitting Anthony Gose. It was a 10-pitch at-bat as Gose stayed alive after falling behind 1-2. But Ross ended up striking him out swinging on a 93 mph fastball.
Kirkman gets big outs (again): Just a few days after Michael Kirkman retired some important hitters in the Rangers' 10-6 win over the New York Yankees, he was back on the mound in another big spot. The Blue Jays put two runners on and got them into scoring position off Tanner Scheppers. With Kirkman quickly warming up, Scheppers got Rasmus to pop up to in foul territory down the third-base line and Adrian Beltre was able to catch it against the wall (and near the fans) for the first out. That allowed the Rangers to intentionally walk Edwin Encarnacion (and give Kirkman more time to get loose) to load the bases. Kirkman came in and got David Cooper to fly out to left field and Yunel Escobar to fly out to center to end the threat.
Nathan breaks club mark: Closer Joe Nathan recorded his 22nd consecutive save opportunity on Sunday, the longest single-season streak in team history. That broke the mark set by Francisco Cordero from June 23 to Aug. 28, 2004. It's also the longest current streak in the big leagues. To be the longest streak in the majors in 2012, he'll need three more consecutive saves to pass Chris Perez, who saved 24 straight for Cleveland from April 8 to July 5 this year.
Cruz at DH, Andrus day off: The Rangers rested Cruz for most of Friday's loss with his sore right hamstring, though he did pinch-hit late and play the field some. On Saturday, he was in the lineup in the 5-hole, but as the designated hitter. ... Elvis Andrus, meanwhile, was given the day off with Michael Young getting the start at shortstop.
Hitting with runners in scoring position: The Rangers ended up 1-for-3 with runners in scoring position. They had just one opportunity -- and Cruz cashed it in with the homer -- until the eighth inning. Then, they went 0-for-2 in an attempt to score an insurance run. ... But the Blue Jays ended up 3-for-13 and left 10 runners on base.
Timely pitch out nabs Gentry: Give the Blue Jays credit: They guessed that Craig Gentry would be running in the third on a 2-1 count. Gentry sprinted to second, but Mathis was able to get him despite a high throw because of the pitch out.
Up next: Left-hander Matt Harrison (13-7, 3.24) goes up against RHP Henderson Alvarez (7-10, 4.48) at 12:07 p.m. on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and FSSW in the rubber match of the series.