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Monday, June 17, 2013
Rangers secure a 'great team win'

By Todd Wills

ARLINGTON, Texas -- One overriding sentiment flowed through the Texas Rangers' winning clubhouse after Monday's 8-7 victory over the division-leading Oakland Athletics.

AJ Pierzynski
A.J. Pierzynski pointed to Nelson Cruz as the game-changer in the Rangers' victory Monday over Oakland. But the Texas catcher wasn't too shabby himself, accounting for three RBIs.
A.J. Pierzynski said it. Ian Kinsler said it, too.

"This was a great team win."

Yes, it was.

The Rangers, in desperate need of a game-changer, had more than a few Monday night as they led early, fell behind by three runs and then came roaring back for an emotional victory that ended a six-game losing streak and brought them within two games of the A's in the American League West.

"They showed what they are and what they're capable of doing," manager Ron Washington said.

A night after Washington had a postgame meeting with his team after a 7-2 loss to Toronto -- urging his club to play harder and execute better -- the Rangers came out flying for a 3-0 lead on a two-run home run by Pierzynski in the second inning and a two-out RBI single by Kinsler in the third inning for a 3-0 lead.

The Rangers had their Mojo back. Then the roof caved in.

Oakland, winners of 22 of their past 29 games and the AL's hottest team, stormed back for six runs in the top of the fourth inning off Rangers rookie starter Nick Tepesch for a 6-3 lead. And that here-we-go-again feeling circulated among the 30,489 in Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Then the Rangers fought back.

It started with reliever Neal Cotts, who got the Rangers out of the fourth inning and delivered two more shutout innings to hold the A's down for a while.

"He did a great job," Pierzynski said. "What, 2⅓ innings is probably the most he's pitched since he was a starter with the A's."

"But Nelson Cruz is the one who changed the momentum," the Rangers' catcher added.

Pierzynski is right about that. Cruz, who had a fly out to center in the second inning on a slider from A's starter Dan Straily, was ready the next time. He ripped a slider 364 feet for his 17th home run of the season to cut the A's lead to 6-4 in the bottom of the fourth.

Pierzynski and Cruz put the Rangers over the top in the bottom of the fifth. Pierzynski had a two-out double off the right-field wall to cut the lead to one. Cruz delivered the big blow.

On a 0-2 changeup from A's reliever Jesse Chavez, Cruz crushed his 18th home run over the center-field fence to give the Rangers the lead back at 7-6.

John Jaso, the A’s catcher, said that both homers Cruz hit “were pitches right down the middle of the plate. A strong guy like that, you can’t get away with that.”

No, you can't.

The Rangers still needed their bullpen to deliver a team win. Cotts in the sixth. Robbie Ross in the seventh. Tanner Scheppers in the eighth. They retired 13 in a row, passing the game off to closer Joe Nathan.

The A's loaded the bases on Nathan with one out and rallied to get a sacrifice fly to left field by Coco Crisp that cut the lead to 8-7. But the final out came on Derek Norris' popup to third base ... one that Beltre secured, pounding his glove as the last emotional response.

Cruz said it wasn't so much the end of the losing streak, but rather a big win to start a four-game series against their rivals from Oakland.

"I see it that we were able to beat the guys in front of us," Cruz said. "It was in our minds that we all believed we can do it. They're a great team over there. We've been struggling with runners in scoring position. So to be able to do what we were able to do tonight, to get closer to a great team, was big."