April 7, 2013

Kinsler leans right, Darvish survives as Rangers beat Angels

Ian Kinsler’s rare opposite-field home run and Yu Darvish’s skin ailment make for a wayward win, 7-3.

A club official had difficulty describing the finger ailment suffered again Sunday night by Yu Darvish.

The Texas Rangers’ right-hander doesn’t have a blister on his right ring finger, but he has something wrong with his skin that forced him to leave after only five innings against the Angels.

Darvish is expected to start Friday in Seattle, but it appears his ring finger will be issue that could linger throughout the season.

But here’s something that might not happen again this season or for three more: An opposite-field home run by Ian Kinsler.

Kinsler, a noted pull hitter from the right side, swatted a three-run shot to right field in the sixth inning, and Lance Berkman and David Murphy also went deep as the Rangers beat Anaheim 7-3 to win the three-game series against the preseason American League West favorites.

“That same at-bat I hit one into their [third-base] dugout at about 100 mph,” Kinsler said. “That was a big situation. My thought there was just make sure I got the guy in from there. I can’t say that it was less than luck that I hit it out to right, but I did my job and the ball happened to go over the fence.”

Kinsler went 3 for 3, scored twice and had a fourth-inning RBI single to back Darvish, who was helped to the finish line by four scoreless innings from three relievers. Tanner Scheppers worked two scoreless frames to continue his fast start to the season.

The homer wasn’t Kinsler’s first key opposite-field hit this series. He delivered the go-ahead run with a line single to right in the eighth inning Friday in a 3-2 home-opening victory.

But the homer was a stunner, even though it came against former Rangers gopher-baller Mark Lowe. It was only Kinsler’s third career homer to straightaway right field, and he has one to right-center.

The shot Sunday was his first to straightaway right since Aug. 15, 2009.

“Brad Penny,” Kinsler said, recalling the game against the Boston right-hander. “I think my only other one was off Roy Halladay in Toronto.

“I’m still a pull hitter. My other two hits were between third and short. You always want to work on your weaknesses, but you compete with your strengths.”

The game got off to a bumpy start for Darvish and Angels starter Jered Weaver, who had to leave in the sixth inning because of a strained left elbow suffered while ducking out of the way of a Mitch Moreland line drive.

Darvish walked Mike Trout, hit Erick Aybar in the foot and walked Albert Pujols to start the game. Josh Hamilton hit into a double play, though a run scored, and Mark Trumbo followed with an RBI single.

But Weaver wasn’t any better in his first inning, as Kinsler drew a leadoff walk and scored when Berkman dumped his first homer with the Rangers into the home bullpen. Murphy struck two batters later with his first of the season.

Kinsler’s single in the fourth plated Geovany Soto, who chugged home ahead of wide throw from left fielder Mike Trout. Moreland had singled to start the sixth, knocking out Weaver, and Leonys Martin took a one-out walk ahead of Kinsler’s second homer of the season.

Darvish (2-0) struck out six in his five innings, giving him 20 on the season in only 13 2/3 innings. He struck out 14 in just missing out on a perfect game against Houston, where his finger issue started in the sixth inning.

“I don’t think it’ll affect my next start,” Darvish said. “I just have to prepare for it. As far as how it developed, I don’t really want to talk about it. But we won the game, so it went well.”

The game’s final out was made by Hamilton, who went 3 for 5 to salvage his first series at Rangers Ballpark in an opposing uniform. He finished 3 for 13 with two runs scored and his hitting .160 this season.

The Angels don’t return to Texas until July 29-31.

“We are playing some good baseball and played against a very good club tonight,” manager Ron Washington said. “That’s what our intentions are, to win series.”

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