Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Rangers 7, Rays 1
By Todd Wills
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- All the bad streaks are over.
The Rangers got a lead, with a home run no less, and never looked back for a 7-1 victory over Tampa Bay on Tuesday night, ending a seven-game losing streak.
AL wild-card race: The Rangers are again tied with the Rays for the two AL wild-card spots. Depending on how other games turned out among contenders, Texas and Tampa Bay had a chance to be 1½ games ahead of the next-closest team.
Another winning season: The Rangers notched their 82nd victory, guaranteeing a winning season for the fifth straight year. It's the longest streak of winning seasons in franchise history, extending the record the club set last year.
Kinsler crushes HR: Ian Kinsler lifted a million pounds off the Rangers' shoulders with a home run on the first pitch of the game from Jeremy Hellickson. It ended the Rangers' streak of 63 innings without a lead and it was their first home run in seven games. It was Kinsler's first home run in 92 at-bats. It was his 29th career leadoff homer, extending his club record. It's the first time Kinsler has ever homered on the game's first pitch. The last Texas player to do that was Gary Matthews Jr. on July 3, 2005.
And a big inning: Leonys Martin sparked a four-run third inning for a 5-0 Rangers lead. After Mitch Moreland's leadoff walk, Martin failed to get down a bunt, then was swinging at the next pitch and ripped a double into the right-field corner, moving Moreland to third base. It set up a big inning for the Rangers. Kinsler followed with a two-run single to center field for a 3-0 lead. Elvis Andrus broke things open with his third home run of the season, a two-run shot into the left-field seats for a 5-0 lead.
Ogando gets it done: In what has to rank as one of the best decisions of the season by manager Ron Washington and pitching coach Mike Maddux, Alexi Ogando got the start Tuesday night. Needing zeroes to let the offense get revved up, Ogando delivered five innings of two-hit ball in his first start since coming off the disabled list for the third time this season. Ogando gave up a third-inning home run to Jose Labaton, which was acceptable since it cut the Texas lead to 5-1. Ogando felt good enough to throw 69 pitches despite an expectation he would throw three or four innings.
Martin's big night: He had two doubles in his first two at-bats and scored two runs, ending a 2-for-22 skid. Martin had a leadoff double in the top of the fifth, moved to third on Kinsler's fly ball to center field and scored on Andrus' fly ball down the right-field line. Martin used his speed to beat Wil Myers' throw from the Rays' bullpen. Martin added his eighth home run of the season in the top of the ninth to cap a great night.
Bullpen dominates: The Rangers have one of the best bullpens in baseball. This is what it looks like when they lead after five innings. Joakim Soria, Neal Cotts, Tanner Scheppers and Joe Nathan combined to give up only two hits in four innings. If the Rangers can get the lead into the late innings in the majority of the games the rest of the way, they should make the playoffs.
Finally Nathan: The Rangers' closer pitched for the first time in nine days. It was his third appearance in September. Nathan allowed a leadoff single to Myers, the very impressive AL Rookie of the Year front-runner, and then retired the next three batters.
Up next: The Rangers try to get left-hander Derek Holland (9-9, 3.40) back on track for his third-to-last start of the regular season, against Rays right-hander Chris Archer (9-7, 3.03) at 6:10 p.m. Wednesday night on Fox Sports Southwest and ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and 1540 AM.