July 31, 2013

Rangers rally late to force extra innings, beat Angels on another walk-off home run

Tanner Scheppers allows four runs in the eighth inning, but Geovany Soto and Leonys Martin deliver late.

Only one person could have dreamed up what the Texas Rangers did late Tuesday night, and that person was the player who won the game for them in improbable fashion.

Outfielder Leonys Martin hit a three-run walk-off homer in the 10th inning to complete the Rangers’ comeback from a four-run deficit in the eighth inning and into a 14-11 victory over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Martin said afterward that he dreamt about delivering a game-ending home run Monday night after teammate Geovany Soto had hit a walk-off homer hours earlier in the opener of the three-game series.

“The biggest moment I’ve had in my whole career,” Martin said. “Last night, I had a dream like that, and it came true tonight. Because of the game that happened with Soto, I dreamed about it.”

The Rangers gained ground on first-place Oakland, which leads the division by five games, for the first time since June 27 after winning in their final at-bat for a second straight game. This walk-off victory rates as even more unlikely than the one Monday.

The Angels led 11-7 after scoring four times against Tanner Scheppers in the eighth, but Soto smacked a three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the inning to move the Rangers within striking distance.

The Rangers were down to their final out against Ernesto Frieri in the ninth when Ian Kinsler drew a walk and stole second without a throw. The next batter, Adrian Beltre, dropped a single into left field, and Kinsler slid home ahead of the throw from J.B. Shuck to tie the game.

After Joe Nathan pitched around a leadoff walk to Mike Trout in the 10th, Mitch Moreland and Soto reached against Daniel Stange to open the home half. The next batter, David Murphy, beat out a throw to first as the Angels tried to turn a double play on his grounder to third.

With Moreland at third, the Angels moved right-fielder Collin Cowgill into the infield and left Shuck and Trout playing the gaps in the outfield. Martin caught a high fastball and sent it just over the left-field wall to send the Rangers into a state of euphoria for a second straight night.

“We need to win games any way we can, and tonight was a long, hard-fought battle,” Kinsler said. “We didn’t give up. We played to the end and pulled out a win, so it was a good win tonight.”

The Rangers looked like they would win much sooner than the 4 hours, 46 minutes it took to dispatch the Angels for the sixth time in eight games this season.

They scored six times in four innings against former teammate C.J. Wilson and were ahead 6-4 with two outs in the seventh before Trout singled against Joakim Soria. Mark Trumbo, who hit a two-run homer in the first, and Howie Kendrick then took walks to fill the bases.

Robbie Ross replaced Soria as manager Ron Washington put a left-hander in to face the left-handed-hitting Josh Hamilton. But Hamilton found the wall in left-center field to clear the bases and put the Angels ahead 7-6.

The Rangers countered with a run in their half of the seventh, but Scheppers couldn’t keep it. Chris Iannetta opened with a double, Shuck followed with a single, and Erick Aybar brought in the go-ahead run on a grounder to second base.

Shuck was caught in a rundown between first and second on the play, but Scheppers dropped the toss from shortstop Elvis Andrus for an error. Four of the next five Angels reached, and three of them scored an unearned run for an 11-7 lead.

But Soto, the hero Monday night, put the Rangers back in the game with his homer off Dane De La Rosa. Down 11-10, Jason Frasor worked a scoreless ninth inning to give the Rangers a chance for a second straight walk-off win.

Nick Maronde retired Martin to start the ninth before Frieri, who blew the save a night earlier, entered and got Andrus on a flyball to right field. Kinsler, though, walked, took second and scored the tying run on Beltre’s single.

Martin made his dream come true an inning later, but he had a lot of help getting there.

“We’re determined to play 27 outs,” Soto said. “We’re grinding through it; we’re having good at-bats; and that’s what it’s going to take.”

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