July 8, 2012

Rangers strike late to bolt past Twins in extra innings

Ian Kinsler's bases-loaded single wins it in the 13th in a game delayed after a frighteningly loud thunder clap.

ARLINGTON -- For eight innings Sunday night, a lightning bolt and an accompanying clap of thunder provided the only memorable moment of the Texas Rangers' first-half finale.

It turns out, though, that the Rangers' offense had captured some of that lightning in a bottle, but didn't make use of it until they were down to two outs in the ninth inning.

Michael Young singled home Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz to forge a 3-3 tie in the ninth, and Ian Kinsler won it with a bases-loaded single in the 13th as the Rangers beat Minnesota 4-3 in extra innings for the second straight game.

The Rangers finished the first half of the season at 52-34, their best record in club history at the All-Star break, and have a four-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels in the American League West.

The Rangers had been 0-30 this season when trailing after eight innings, and they won for the first time since June 9, 2007, when trailing by three or more runs entering the ninth inning.

“It was huge,” manager Ron Washington said. “We certainly needed to move forward off of yesterday's game. We just kept battling. In the ninth inning, I think we showed the character we have in that clubhouse. We didn't quit.”

Young went 4 for 6, and his final hit was a double to right field to start the 13th. The Twins walked David Murphy ahead of Mike Napoli, who had been 0 for 11 before beating out an infield hit to load the bases.

After Craig Gentry hit into a fielder's choice, with Young thrown out at home, Kinsler ripped a deep fly ball into the gap in left-center field.

“It was a slider that stayed in the middle, and I was able to get some good wood on it,” Kinsler said. “We had a lot of chances that we weren't able to capitalize on, then the ninth inning we were lucky enough to push three runs across.”

The game had been delayed 46 minutes in the fourth inning by a lightning strike that frightened the 43,268 at Rangers Ballpark as well as the players and umpires on the field.

Play was stopped shortly after 7 p.m. when the bolt ahead of an approaching storm struck north of the stadium and was accompanied by a frighteningly loud clap of thunder.

Several players ran to their dugouts, and the umpires quickly left the field.

Napoli was the first to leave, and Twins left fielder Josh Willingham, who was at first base, sought safety by hitting the infield dirt.

Rain started falling 10 minutes later to contribute to the delay.

“I thought I was dead,” Washington said.

The game resumed in a pitchers' duel between Roy Oswalt and Cole DeVries. The unheralded rookie outpitched the former All-Star, who was much better than he had been in his previous two starts.

Oswalt took a shutout into the sixth inning, and easily retired the first two batters. But the Twins put together a Joe Mauer single and a walk to Willingham with two outs, and Justin Morneau singled home Mauer.

“I went so hard the last two starts, I ran out of gas late tonight,” Oswalt said. “I feel better and better every time I go out. I threw the ball better tonight and have better command of my other pitches.”

The Twins added two unearned runs in the ninth off Joe Nathan, who had logged two innings and 36 pitches Saturday night.

The All-Star closer, though, allowed a pair of singles to start the ninth and committed a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt by Brian Dozier to plate one run and put Twins at second and third with no outs.

After Jamey Carroll struck out, Denard Span delivered a sacrifice fly. That ended the night for Nathan, and Michael Kirkman got Ben Revere to end the inning.

The unearned runs looked like they had cost the Rangers as Kinsler reached second on an error to start the ninth, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a groundout by Elvis Andrus.

Josh Hamilton then popped out, but the Rangers found some life with two outs as Beltre singled and Cruz doubled. Both scored as Young delivered his third hit of the game to tie the score.

Kirkman and Yoshinori Tateyama combined for a scoreless 10th inning. Kirkman got the first out of the inning but left with a mild strain of his left quadriceps.

Tateyama, though, followed with 1 2/3 scoreless innings, and Scott Feldman (3-6) allowed a hit in the final two innings to earn the win.

Until the ninth, the Rangers were headed toward a 3-0 loss. They had seen only one runner get past second base the first eight innings. It was Kinsler, who collected a leadoff single in the first inning and advanced as far as third. But DeVries, who was in Triple A as recently as June 25, faced the minimum over the next six innings and allowed only two more hits.

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