Thursday, June 20, 2013
Rangers take back momentum from A's
By Todd Wills
ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's only June, but that doesn't diminish what the Rangers did for four days against the Oakland Athletics.
In winning three out of four games from the division-leading A's --known for their never quit attitude -- the Rangers, who won 4-3 on Thursday, showed their American League West rivals that they can match them in mental toughness.
Forget about how the 2012 season ended with Oakland stealing the AL West from the Rangers. The A's, who had won 22 of 29 coming in, led in every game in Arlington and won once as their lead shrunk to one game in the division.
Meanwhile, the Rangers won every game that Yu Darvish didn't start.
"We did what we had to do," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
The Rangers played team baseball to win the series. It wasn't always pretty -- defensive miscues nearly cost them in Thursday's 4-3 victory. But they did make the final play on defense with the relay from Craig Gentry to Elvis Andrus to A.J. Pierzynski resulting in an out at home plate in the top of the ninth to end the game in dramatic fashion.
Pierzynski and fellow veteran Joe Nathan were leaping and pumping fists after the final play.
"It was a great relay and a good win and good way to end the homestand," Pierzynski said. "To win the series the way we did, it's good for the guys."
There were plenty of heroes.
Start with Robbie Ross, who saved the day in the sixth inning. Washington probably waited too long to go to Ross in the inning after a casual throw to first by Jurickson Profar and a single by Josh Donaldson forced Rangers starter Josh Lindblom out of the game.
Washington went to two pitchers, Joseph Ortiz and Jason Frasor, who delivered walks to give Oakland a 2-1 lead. It was up to Ross to keep the score right there. He came through with two strikeouts and a popup.
"I was just trying to keep my team in the game," Ross said. "I really wanted a double play ball."
There was Ian Kinsler, working a count full in the bottom of the seventh with the bases loaded and two outs and smoking a single up the middle for a 4-3 lead. It came as no surprise to his teammates.
"He's the heart of the team," right fielder Nelson Cruz said. "When he is going, as a team we are going well. He brings momentum."
There was Cruz in the top of the eighth with the Rangers clinging to a 4-3 lead, tracking down a fly ball up the alley in right-center field with a runner on base, crashing face first into the fence. Setup man Tanner Scheppers got a double-play ball from the next batter, Jed Lowrie, to end the inning.
That let the Rangers close it down with the relay play in the ninth inning, thus winning a series that keeps them right in the middle of the AL West race.