BALTIMORE (AP) -- Combining a trusty weapon with two they rarely utilize, the Texas Rangers earned an uplifting victory that provided their first winning streak since the All-Star break.
David Dellucci hit a tiebreaking ninth-inning homer and Alfonso Soriano also connected to lead Texas past the Baltimore Orioles 2-1 on Thursday night.The Rangers took three of four from the sinking Orioles, who lost starting pitcher Sidney Ponson with a bruised right thumb. Baltimore has dropped eight of nine to fall one game over .500 for the first time since April 14.Winning with the long ball has become commonplace for the Rangers, who lead the majors with 170 homers. But Texas also benefited from a rare pitching gem, as Ricardo Rodriguez and two relievers combined to yield just seven hits.Before Thursday, the Rangers had allowed at least five runs in 18 of 20 games, one reason they had failed to put together successive wins since July 8-10.Texas also got a boost from its defense, particularly third baseman Hank Blalock, who saved two runs with a diving stop in the eighth."Pitching and defense won the game for us," first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "We made a couple of big plays, and we were able to score some runs."Dellucci snapped a 1-all tie with his career-high 18th homer, a two-out drive on a 1-2 pitch from Chris Ray (0-2).Rodriguez pitched seven-plus innings for Texas, allowing one run and six hits. Kameron Loe (5-3) worked out of a jam in the eighth, and Francisco Cordero got three outs for his 24th save."We were having a little problem winning games, but now we come here and win three of four, and that's important," Soriano said.Rodriguez gave up four homers in his last start and was winless since June 18, but he was extremely sharp in his second career start against the Orioles. He walked three and struck out three in his longest outing since June 29."He was outstanding, he was in control," Texas manager Buck Showalter said.Ponson left in the third inning after being struck by a line drive off the bat of Sandy Alomar. The right-hander marched off the mound and into the clubhouse before a team trainer could offer assistance.Ponson was rumored to be headed out of Baltimore before Sunday's non-waiver trade deadline, but now there's some question about when he can pitch again."He should be fine," said Baltimore manager Lee Mazzilli, who expected Ponson to be available for his next start -- whether it's with the Orioles or another team.Ponson allowed two hits in 2 1/3 innings and is 0-5 in seven starts since June 18.The Orioles stranded 10 runners after leaving 16 on base in an 11-inning loss Wednesday."We have got to find a way to get the guys in when we need to," Mazzilli said. "We've got to fight through this. No one's going to give you anything. Something will break, and when it does, hopefully it will take on a nice little ride."The Orioles were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position, the lone hit an RBI single by Melvin Mora that put Baltimore up 1-0 in the third inning."We're definitely getting the opportunities to score. It's a matter of us capitalizing on it, and we just haven't done it," said Sal Fasano, who went 0-for-2 with a walk.In the eighth, Baltimore got runners on second and third with no outs before Loe retired Javy Lopez on a grounder and struck out Luis Matos. Blalock then made a diving stop on a grounder and threw out David Newhan at first."Huge play," Showalter said."Newhan hit the ball hard, but Blalock just made a great play," said Mazzilli.After Ponson left, Tim Byrdak kept the Rangers scoreless through the fifth. Soriano tied it in the sixth, driving Jason Grimsley's third pitch into the left field seats for his 26th home run.
Ponson is 8-1 lifetime against the Rangers, his lone loss coming on May 30, 1998. ... Texas' Gary Matthews Jr. got two hits and was 9-for-18 in the series.