August 4, 2011

Ogando helps Rangers end three-game skid

Alexi Ogando pitches well into the seventh and then the revamped bullpen helps deny Detroit a sweep of the three-game series.

DETROIT - Alexi Ogando commanded his fastball. Mike Adams felt more comfortable. Ian Kinsler had a hit.

Everything that went wrong for the Texas Rangers in their recent three-game losing streak went right in a 5-2 victory over the Tigers on Thursday afternoon at Comerica Park.

The Rangers (62-50) looked like a first-place team again, and will be atop the American League West when they open a six-game homestand tonight against Cleveland.

"After dropping the first two, we had to close out this series and get a win," catcher Mike Napoli said. "It was a good game for us. Ogando threw well and we were able to get on the board early."

Ogando pitched well against the Tigers again. He opened the game with six scoreless innings, allowing only four singles, before running into trouble in the seventh.

Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez led off with consecutive singles. Carlos Guillen popped out in foul territory, then Wilson Betemit and Ryan Raburn had run-scoring singles.

Ogando left the game after that, allowing two runs on eight hits with no walks and seven strikeouts. He became the first pitcher in the majors this season to defeat Detroit three times, holding the Tigers to a 1.29 ERA over a combined 21 innings.

"I had really good command of my fastball, and my sinker worked well off it," Ogando said. "I was just really focused on throwing strikes. That's where my concentration was."

Ogando's 11th victory was never in question as the Rangers showed off their upgraded bullpen to shut down the Tigers' rally in the seventh, and close out the game.

Darren Oliver retired the lone batter he faced, Jhonny Peralta, and then Koji Uehara induced pinch hitter Magglio Ordonez to fly out to end the seventh.

Adams, making his second appearance with the Rangers, needed only eight pitches to throw a scoreless eighth, and closer Neftali Feliz pitched a perfect ninth.

On Tuesday, Adams had an eight-pitch at-bat that resulted in a Brennan Boesch home run. This time, Boesch grounded out on the first pitch he saw from Adams.

"I felt a whole lot more comfortable," Adams said. "When I first came here, I felt like I had to prove myself. But after being around the guys for a couple of days, I'm more relaxed."

Feliz struck out his first two batters with 97 mph fastballs. He closed the game by getting Raburn to ground out. It was the first time manager Ron Washington used the improved bullpen for what it was designed to do.

"It certainly worked in our favor," Washington said.

Along with Ogando, the Rangers' offense put the bullpen in that position, scoring five runs off Tigers starter Brad Penny.

They took a 1-0 lead in the second in a bizarre scenario.

Nelson Cruz led off with a single, and reached second on Mike Napoli's fielder's choice ground ball after second baseman Guillen dropped the flip from shortstop Ramon Santiago for the force at second.

Mitch Moreland then grounded out to first, and the Tigers caught Napoli in a rundown. Cruz, meanwhile, headed home on the play, and was safe after catcher Victor Martinez dropped the throw home. The throw would have been in time to complete the triple play, and Martinez was charged with an error.

"I thought we had it," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "[The throw] bounced, and it short-hopped him. I thought we had one. It would have been a unique one, but it would have been a neat one."

Instead, the Rangers scored first, something they did nine times during their 12-game winning streak in July.

The Rangers added three more runs in the fourth. They had four singles to start the inning, including an RBI single by Napoli. Endy Chavez added a sacrifice fly, and Kinsler, in a 1-for-32 slump, came through with an RBI single.

Michael Young had an RBI triple in the seventh to make it a 5-0 lead.

"We played really well today and pitched really well," Young said. "Pitching was the story. Ogando threw the ball well and our bullpen did a great job."

Follow Drew Davison on Twitter @drewdavison.

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