Monday, April 8, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Rangers 5, Rays 4
By Todd Wills
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers used back-to-back home runs from A.J. Pierzynski and Mitch Moreland in the fourth inning to win the opener of a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-3, on Monday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
No. 300: Rangers closer Joe Nathan earned his 300th career save, though it didn't come easy. Leading 5-3, Nathan gave up a run and two hits and had the tying run on first base before getting a friendly called strike three on Ben Zobrist to end it. Nathan is the 24th pitcher in major league history to reach the milestone. Nathan tied Jason Isringhausen and Bruce Sutter for 22nd on the all-time list. Nathan is the second pitcher to get to 300 in a Rangers uniform, joining John Wetteland, who recorded his 300th on May 12, 2000.
Back-to-back: With the game tied at 1-1 in the fourth inning and the night dragging, A.J. Pierzynski gave the Rangers the lead with a solo home run to right field, his first of the season. Mitch Moreland, who had pushed his batting average over .100 with an infield single in his previous at-bat, crushed a home run into the home bullpen in right-center field for his second of the season.
Andrus awakens: Shortstop Elvis Andrus had two hits in his previous 18 at-bats before he singled in the fifth inning. He was wiped out by Lance Berkman's double play, but Andrus used a positive at-bat to break open the game. His two-out, two-run single up the middle in the bottom of the seventh gave the Rangers a 5-1 lead.
Bullpen mess: The Rangers opened the door for the Rays in the top of the eighth. Leading 5-1, Rangers reliever Michael Kirkman gave up two hits and a walk to load the bases with one out. Manager Ron Washington went to veteran Derek Lowe, who walked the first batter he faced, pinch hitter Shelley Duncan, on four pitches. Somehow Lowe bounced back, getting a fielder's choice from Yunel Escobar to make it 5-3. He then got a strikeout of Ryan Roberts to end the inning. Still, Lowe has inherited five runners this season and four of them have scored.
Ogando minimizes damage: Starter Alexi Ogando wasn't near as dominant against the Rays as he was against Houston (then again who isn't). Yet he still allowed only a run in 5 1/3 innings. Ogando gave up three hits and walked three. He had two strikeouts after a career-high 10 against the Astros.
Cruz's catch: Right fielder Nelson Cruz made a brilliant running catch going into the wall in the second inning. The Rangers had already given up the lead on an error by Ian Kinsler. Cruz's catch over his shoulder kept Yunel Escobar from scoring from second base and giving the Rays a 2-1 lead.
Ortiz shines: Rookie reliever Joe Ortiz came in the game in a pressure situation with the tying runs on base and the Rangers clinging to a 3-1 lead in the top of the sixth. It was the 22-year-old left-hander's biggest moment of the young season. He responded. Ortiz picked up two ground balls, one by left-handed hitting Matt Joyce and the other by Yunel Escobar. Ortiz then worked a perfect seventh with two more ground outs and a strikeout. It was the first time in three outings Ortiz hasn't allow a run.
Up next: Rangers right-hander and fifth starter Nick Tepesch makes his major league debut against the Rays and right-handed starter Roberto Hernandez (0-1, 5.40 ERA), who won the No. 5 spot in the Tampa rotation from Jeff Niemann in spring training.