April 14, 2013

Unusual suspects lead Rangers to win over Mariners

‘Irregulars’ chip in to help Texas squeeze out a 3-1 win in Seattle.

The contributions that the Texas Rangers received late Saturday night from Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre hardly come as a surprise.

The All-Stars are among the core group of players who the Rangers know will produce throughout the 2013 season.

Their success, though, rests on contributions from players who either don’t play regularly or were spring surprises to make the club — or both.

Craig Gentry, Leury Garcia and Joe Ortiz fall into that group, and on Saturday night they were as integral in the Rangers’ 3-1 victory as established regulars.

Andrus and Beltre delivered key two-out RBI hits in the eighth inning, and Joe Ortiz pitched two scoreless innings of relief for his second career victory and his second of this series against Seattle.

Gentry scored the go-ahead run after drawing a leadoff walk, and Garcia collected a hit and made a handful of nifty defensive plays at shortstop in his first major-league start. It took a while for Andrus and Beltre to get going, but enough had been done by others to give them the chance.

“We haven’t swung the bat the way we wanted lately,” Beltre said. “We don’t know why that is, whether it’s the cold weather or good pitching by the other team. But the key for us has been that our pitching staff has kept us in the game. They’ve given us a chance.”

Rangers starter Alexi Ogando continued to do good work, though over a short span. He allowed only one run on five hits but lasted only five innings, his shortest of three starts this season, as he piled up 98 pitches while dealing with more inconsistent command of his fastball.

He left two up in the fifth inning, resulting in a Kelly Shoppach leadoff double and a single by the next hitter, Dustin Ackley. Ogando was on the verge of escaping the Mariners’ threat, but Jason Bay’s two-out blooper missed the glove of a diving Gentry in center field for the game’s first run.

The Rangers countered that run quickly in the sixth, thanks to a pair of Seattle defensive miscues.

The normally sure-handed Brendan Ryan booted a potential double-play grounder by Ian Kinsler after Garcia had started the inning with his first career hit. After an Andrus sacrifice bunt, Beltre took an intentional walk to load the bases.

Nelson Cruz followed and sent a soft line drive toward first base. Justin Smoak dropped the liner but recovered to get a force out at second. Ryan threw to third to get Kinsler, who stopped and got in a rundown long enough for Garcia to cross the plate before the Mariners completed the double play.

“He played unbelievably,” Beltre said of Garcia.

That unearned run was all the Rangers could get against Joe Saunders, the left-hander who ended their season last year by pitching Baltimore to a win in the wild-card game. He was better Saturday, allowing only three hits.

“He was as tough on us as usual the last few times we’ve seen him,” manager Ron Washington said. “He kept us off-balance. We scratched one off him to keep us in the game.”

The Rangers grabbed the lead in the eighth, an inning that started with Gentry talking a leadoff walk. He was at second with two outs when Andrus floated a soft single down the right-field line and scored easily.

Andrus then stole second and went to third as Carter Capps’ pitch went to the screen. Beltre rifled a single past third on the next pitch.

Ortiz delivered a perfect eighth inning after allowing a two-out single in a scoreless seventh. He worked two perfect innings Thursday en route to his first major-league victory.

“He’s continuing what he’s been doing: pounding the strike zone and putting the ball in play,” Washington said. “When you put the ball in the strike zone, good things will happen.”

Good things happened late for the Rangers on Saturday. The usual suspects delivered the key hits, but contributions from Gentry, Garcia and Ortiz were just as important.

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