On a road trip that saw them lose their first baseman, lose an 18-inning game and lose their division lead, the Texas Rangers needed something to go right.
It finally did Sunday afternoon.
The Rangers overcame a four-run deficit with Adrian Beltre hitting a go-ahead homer and Joe Nathan working out of a ninth-inning jam to preserve a 6-4 victory at the Rogers Centre.
Texas avoided being swept by Toronto and regained the lead in the American League West after Oakland lost to the White Sox.
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“It was a huge win,” said Beltre, who has a 14-game hitting streak. “We haven’t been playing well lately in every phase of the game. Defensively, offensively, pitching, we just haven’t. It’s huge to go back home with a win.”
It almost looked like a lost cause early on.
Starter Justin Grimm started to unravel with two outs in the third, walking Melky Cabrera and allowing an infield single to Jose Bautista. That hit was a tough break, as second baseman Jurickson Profar slipped on what would have been a routine groundout.
Edwin Encarnacion then drove in a run with a single to left, and Adam Lind delivered a big blow, sending a 1-0 breaking ball over the left-center field fence for a three-run homer.
“Seventy-five percent of the time you’re going to get away with it, but I didn’t get the breaking ball where I wanted to,” Grimm said. “That was a tough inning and sometimes you have to get four outs in an inning. But the one pitch to Lind sticks in my mind. I could have attacked him a little better.”
Grimm settled into a zone after that, retiring eight of nine batters while an offense that featured four rookies chipped away at the deficit.
The Rangers scored two runs in the fourth on a solo home run by Nelson Cruz and an RBI double by Chris McGuiness, his first big-league hit. Cruz had an RBI single in the fifth to make it a 4-3 game.
The Rangers tied it in the sixth when Leury Garcia scored from third as Craig Gentry stole second, and took the lead in the seventh.
Beltre won a seven-pitch at-bat in the seventh against Jays reliever Neil Wagner, connecting on a 97 mph fastball. Murphy added an insurance run with a solo shot off Dustin McGowan in the eighth.
It provided a nice cushion, especially when Nathan got into a jam in the ninth.
After not pitching Saturday despite warming up nine times in extra innings, Nathan issued a leadoff walk Sunday to pinch hitter Maicer Izturis. Munenori Kawasaki then reached on an error by Elvis Andrus.
Cabrera laid down a sacrifice bunt to put the runners at second and third, with Bautista and Encarnacion coming up as the winning runs.
“That’s a tough part of the order,” Nathan said. “You’ve got two guys that can’t just take you deep, but take you out of the stadium. I knew the task ahead of me was tough.”
Against Bautista, Nathan threw a first-pitch slider for a called strike, came inside with a fastball for a checked-swing strike and then got him to chase a slider out of the zone.
Bautista, who had hits his previous three at-bats, was tossed for arguing with home-plate umpire Gary Darling. Bautista didn’t comment afterward, but it appeared his criticism centered on the called strike down in the zone to start the at-bat.
“I’m sure he doesn’t want a called strike, but it’s a pitch at the knees,” Nathan said. “That’s a pitchers’ pitch, so it’s a strike in baseball. I’m not going to say it was borderline. I think it was a strike.”
Nathan ended the game by getting Encarnacion to pop up on a 2-2 fastball. He pumped his fist, knowing the importance of salvaging at least one win in the series.
“We’re going through tough times, but nobody is going to feel sorry for us,” Nathan said. “In the middle of 20 straight [scheduled games], you don’t want to go out and lose four in a row in the early part. So having a ‘W’ on getaway day is a good feeling.”