Geovany Soto reeked of beer Monday night, and he hadn’t consumed even a single drop.
Yet Soto was drunk enough, and a collective buzz was hitting the rest of his Texas Rangers teammates.
That’s what a walk-off win can do for a struggling team.
A.J. Pierzysnki started the ninth inning with a home run, and Soto ended the game three batters later with a two-out moonshot that stayed fair and found the seats as the Rangers stunned the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 4-3.
The general consensus in the high after the thrilling win is that those two hits could provide the spark that the Rangers’ beleaguered offense needs to turn around a season that has gone south since the All-Star break.
“I was the happiest guy on the field,” said Soto, who received the customary beer shower reserved for walk-off heroes. “It felt awesome for the team to come from behind and win a ballgame like that. Sometimes these types of games give a team a boost, and hopefully that will be the case.”
The win snapped the Rangers’ four-game losing streak and gave them just their third win in 11 games to open the second half. Their first victory this season in 40 tries when trailing after eight innings came on the heels of a three-game sweep at Cleveland and a 45-minute team meeting to clear the air.
Ian Kinsler, moved to the third spot in the order in a lineup shakeup, drove in the other two runs. The first, on a two-out single in the sixth, snapped the Rangers’ scoreless streak at 26 innings.
But they were down 3-2 when Ernesto Frieri was summoned from the Angels’ bullpen to close out the game. Frieri has been anything but a sure thing this season, much like the Rangers’ offense, so something had to give.
Pierzynski evened the score to start the inning, swatting a 1-2 pitch 377 feet. Pierzynski, who was the designated hitter, also homered off Frieri in the ninth inning April 22 to break a 5-5 tie en route to a Rangers win.
“I’ve been fighting myself for a long time,” Pierzynski said. “I’ve been frustrated, just trying too hard, and finally I just said, ‘Whatever happens here happens.’”
Nelson Cruz followed with a single, but the Angels turned David Murphy’s sharp grounder to second into a double play.
That left things up to Soto, who took three straight balls before hitting a towering fly ball on a full-count pitch toward the left-field corner. Soto wasn’t sure if his 349-foot drive would stay fair, but it did for his fifth homer of the season.
“I’m happy for everybody to start hitting,” starting pitcher Matt Garza said. “Something like this can turn from a little snowball into something huge, and that’s where I want to see us go.”
Garza was headed toward a loss in his second start with the Rangers after allowing three runs in seven innings. All three came in the fifth, when J.B. Shuck hit his first career home with one out and Josh Hamilton bounced a two-out, two-run single past third baseman Adrian Beltre.
But Garza retired the final seven batters he faced, and Neal Cotts worked the most important inning by a Rangers pitcher by stranding Mike Trout at third with no outs in the eighth inning.
“What an inning,” manager Ron Washington said.
Kinsler had knocked home Leonys Martin in the sixth and then drove in Elvis Andrus on a sacrifice fly in the eighth after the shortstop had singled with one out, stolen second and gone to third on a throwing error by catcher Hank Conger.
That gave the Rangers a chance in the ninth. Pierzynski and Soto delivered, and the Rangers were thinking big afterward in a buzzing clubhouse.
“We needed that game,” Pierzynski said. “All the offensive struggles we’ve been through the last few weeks to have a win like that at home, especially coming off the road trip we just had, is huge.”