ARLINGTON, Texas -- After a 46-minute thunder/rain delay, the Texas Rangers overcame one of their poorest offensive showings, engineering a ninth-inning rally and a second straight extra-innings win to beat the Minnesota Twins, 4-3. Ian Kinsler was the hero, as he hit a walk-off single in the 13th inning, giving Scott Feldman the win. Roy Oswalt picked up a no-decision in his best outing of the season, as Texas narrowly avoided its second shutout loss of the year. Some thoughts on the win:
What it means: The Rangers go into the All-Star break tied for the most wins in baseball at 52-34, matching the club record for wins in the first half. They took two of three against the Twins to give them their eighth series win in their last nine. They also retain a four-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West. The win Sunday was the first time the Rangers won when trailing by three or more entering the ninth inning or later since 2007. The Rangers are 5-2 in extra-inning games this season.
Miracle in the ninth: The Rangers' ninth-inning rally to tie it 3-3 was nothing short of miraculous. The Twins had just improved their lead to 3-0 in the top of the ninth and all looked lost for Texas. Down 0-2 in the count, Ian Kinsler reached first on an error and later reached third on a wild pitch. Elvis Andrus drove him home with a grounder to second. Then with two outs, Adrian Beltre hit a single and was moved to third by another late-game double off the bat of Nelson Cruz. Michael Young tied it with an 0-2, two-RBI single. David Murphy joined Young on base with a single, but the rally ended when Mike Napoli continued his cold streak with a pop-up to second.
Kinsler closes the deal: With the bullpen depleted, Feldman came on in the 12th inning after starting Wednesday against the Chicago White Sox. After a solid 12th, he pitched again in the 13th for back-to-back 1-2-3 innings and the fourth consecutive scoreless inning for the Texas bullpen. Young hit a leadoff double for his season-high fourth hit of the game. Murphy was intentionally walked for a second straight time to bring up Napoli. Napoli broke out of his funk with a single to load the bases. Then Craig Gentry reached first on a fielder’s choice to keep the bases loaded for Kinsler. Kinsler hit a walk-off RBI single with a 1-2 count to seal the deal.
Thunderstruck: The game was delayed by thunder and later rain at 7:11 p.m. for 46 minutes with one out in the top of the fourth inning. A deafening clap of thunder struck that made Oswalt and the majority of people at Rangers Ballpark jump. Startled by the thunder, Mike Napoli sprinted to the dugout quicker than the umpire could call the game. His teammates got a good laugh at his expense. Ryan Doumit, who was batting, also sprinted in from home plate and Twins outfielder Ben Revere later tweeted that he was glad no one heard him "scream like a little girl."
Oswalt's best yet: Oswalt had his best start of the season so far, finishing 5 2/3 innings with five hits, one earned run, two walks and three strikeouts, one out short of a quality start. Oswalt has often spoken of his disdain for fantasy numbers, but he put up some personal bests for the season. His five hits are the least he has allowed after allowing nine, 13 and 13 in his previous starts. His first pitch after the rain delay was a 6-4-3 double play. He would have gotten out of the sixth inning unscathed if not for a questionable call at second base, when Josh Willingham could have been called out on a Justin Morneau single. But Willingham was called safe and Joe Mauer was driven in for the first run of the game. After that, Oswalt left the game with 102 pitches.
Close, but no cigar: The Rangers had a chance to close out the game in the 11th but fell short. After a 1-2-3 11th inning from Yoshinori Tateyama, including his second consecutive inning-ending strikeout, the Rangers' offense came up with a chance to win. With one out and a full count, Cruz found extra-inning magic again with a single and reached second on an error at second base. Young flied out to deep center and Murphy drew an intentional walk to bring up the struggling Napoli. In a twist of fate, the inning continued when Napoli drew yet another walk to bring up Gentry with the bases loaded. Gentry lined out to first to end the inning. The Rangers had another chance in the 12th after some solid pitching from Feldman. But with runners at the corners, Cruz grounded out to third to end the inning.
Dueling pitchers: Oswalt and Minnesota's Cole De Vries kept both offenses in check for the first half of the game. De Vries allowed one hit in the first inning and another in the fifth and sixth. Oswalt allowed just three hits in the first two innings and two more in the sixth. Oswalt also had 1-2-3 innings in the third, fourth and fifth and De Vries had 1-2-3's of his own from the second through the seventh. Oswalt was scoreless through five and De Vries through seven. De Vries' night ended after seven dominant innings with only 84 pitches. De Vries finished with three hits, one walk and five strikeouts.
MiKe Napoli: Napoli's struggles at the plate continued as he eclipsed his strikeout total from all of last season. Napoli has struck out 86 times in the first half of the 2012 season compared to 85 times all of last year. His second strikeout in Sunday's game also resulted in a double play, as Young had been sent to second base on a hit-and-run. He also had a chance to win the game in the ninth but popped up instead. Napoli finished 1-for-5 with a walk.
Another injured pitcher: Michael Kirkman exited in the tenth with a mild left quad strain after putting out the first batter of the inning at first. Kirkman and Tateyama combined to keep the Twins scoreless in the tenth
Up next: Ron Washington, his coaching staff, Joe Mauer and the eight Rangers All-Stars are en route to Kansas City for the All-Star Game on Tuesday. After the break, the Rangers will be back in action for a road series with the Seattle Mariners starting July 13. Here are the probable starters:
Fri. at Sea.: LHP Derek Holland (5-4, 5.05) vs. TBA, 9:10 p.m., ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM/1540 AM/TXA21.
Sat. at Sea.: RHP Yu Darvish (10-5, 3.59) vs. TBA, 8:10 p.m., ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM/1540 AM/FSSW.
Sun. at Sea.: LHP Matt Harrison (11-4, 3.10) vs. TBA, 3:10 p.m., ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM/1540 AM/FSSW.