ARLINGTON, Texas -- For Nolan Ryan, it has been a long rookie season as president of the Texas Rangers.
Hired in February to revitalize a team that has never won a playoff series, the Hall of Fame pitcher has spent the season evaluating the entire organization and trying to determine what changes need to be made.But after the home finale Wednesday, a 14-4 victory over the Oakland Athletics, Ryan said he doesn't anticipate changing managers. Ryan expects Ron Washington to return next season along with general manager Jon Daniels."In my mind, they're going to be back. I have no reason to think differently," Ryan said in a hastily gathered postgame meeting. "I don't anticipate a change."Ryan also stuck with Washington after Texas got off to the worst start in team history, 7-16 in April. The team responded by winning seven straight series and got to six games over .500 in early August before a slumping finish that ensured the Rangers (77-82) would have their eighth losing record in nine seasons."Ron has done a good job. I think he kept the ballclub playing for him under bad conditions in April, and I think it played hard for him all year," Ryan said. "With a young club, that's the thing that you look for, if the team quits on a manager. And this team didn't do that."A 15-28 stretch that ended with Monday night's loss to Oakland ensured a losing record. Texas lost All-Star second baseman Ian Kinsler and outfielder David Murphy to season-ending injuries during that time.In the home finale, Hank Blalock homered in his fourth straight game and Matt Harrison (9-3) struck out seven in six innings to become the first Texas rookie left-hander to win nine games."It wasn't anything that I worried about," Washington said about his future. "I've always had my focus on the field, trying to make sure we can keep this team focused. ... We didn't win record-wise, but we dealt with a lot this year."Harrison was one of seven pitchers who made their major league debuts this season with Texas, which used a club-record 55 players (30 pitchers).While Harrison was a bright spot, Ryan said the emphasis during the offseason has to be pitching -- the Rangers had a majors-worst 5.41 ERA. But he doesn't expect the team to be in the big-spending sweepstakes for expected free agents like CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets.The only AL starters with more victories than Harrison since he made his major league debut July 8 are Cleveland's Cliff Lee (11) and Toronto's A.J. Burnett (10).Blalock's three-run homer, his 11th, erased a 1-0 deficit in the fourth and put Texas ahead to stay. After Blalock was hit by a pitch to start the sixth, Nelson Cruz homered on the next pitch to chase Dana Eveland (9-9).Travis Metcalf also homered and Michael Young went 4-for-4 with a walk for Texas, which has a 1½-game lead over Oakland for second place in the AL West with three games left for both teams.After missing 91 games this season because of injuries and playing only 58 games last year, Blalock isn't certain of returning with the Rangers. The club has a $6.2 million option for 2009, or a $250,000 buyout, on the two-time All-Star third baseman who switched to first base because of shoulder problems.But Blalock is showing he can still hit, going 17-for-37 over the last 10 games. He has a streak of six consecutive games with an extra-base hit, a run scored and an RBI.Blalock's homer came off left-hander Eveland, who didn't allow another homer to a left-handed hitter in his 29 starts this season."I got into trouble with the home run. ... I gave up some hits on some pitches I thought were pretty good. You can't make a mistake against this team. They can swing the bats," said Eveland, donning a platinum blonde wig and female police officer's outfit.The costume was part of the hazing of 17 Oakland As, who were dressed in female costumes for the trip from Texas to the West Coast.The last batter Eveland faced was Cruz, whose 422-foot homer to left-center made it 7-2 with no outs in the sixth. Texas added six more runs against two relievers, including an RBI single by Blalock and Josh Hamilton's two-run double that snapped his 15-game drought without an RBI and upped his season total to 126.Jack Cust hit his 32nd homer, a solo shot, and had his 192nd strikeout, seven short of the major league record set last season by Philadelphia's Ryan Howard. Daric Barton had two doubles and scored twice for the A's.
Rangers DH Milton Bradley has an .439 on-base percentage after going 2-for-5 . He finally reached the minimum number of plate appearances needed to qualify as the leader. ... The Rangers finished 40-41 at home and drew fewer than 2 million fans for the first time in their 15 seasons at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The final crowd was 16,832, pushing the season total to 1,945,857.