A week ago, the Texas Rangers could hardly do anything right. Now, even when something appears to be going terribly, the situation quickly rights itself.
Take the relief appearance from right-hander Jason Frasor, who entered with two outs and the bases loaded in the fifth inning and promptly skipped all eight of his warm-up tosses to home plate.
But when pinch hitter Alberto Callaspo stepped into the batter’s box, Frasor threw a first pitch strike and then another strike that Callaspo hit to center fielder Craig Gentry.
“That was a pretty big situation,” Frasor said. “It was a miracle that I got the first one over.”
The threat was over, and the Rangers never looked back en route to their fifth consecutive victory.
Nelson Cruz and Jurickson Profar hit two-run homers, and A.J. Pierzynski drove in three more runs as the Rangers overcame a sluggish performance by Alexi Ogando to beat Oakland 8-3.
The victory moved the Rangers within 2 1/2 games of Oakland in the American League West and vaulted them into a tie with Baltimore for the second wild-card berth into the postseason.
“We’re finally putting it together,” manager Ron Washington said. “We’ve been doing it up and down the lineup, and that’s what it takes.”
Cruz delivered his 26th homer of the season in the second inning to erase a 2-0 lead the A’s had taken in the first against a wild Ogando. Cruz hit a fastball from Tommy Milone, and the line drive just cleared the wall in center field.
Fans at O.co Coliseum booed Cruz as he rounded the bases, fully aware that he is facing a suspension for his role in the Biogenesis of America scandal.
“If you go on the field, winning is easy,” Cruz said. “It’s still hard to deal with it, but you still have to be able to separate it.”
Adrian Beltre drove in a run in the third with a groundout, and Pierzynski followed with a soft liner that just eluded shortstop Jed Lowrie for a 4-2 lead.
Profar’s fourth homer of the season, and first as a right-handed batter, came in the fourth, and Pierzynski’s broken-bat single in the seventh made it 8-3.
“Those balls were crushed,” Pierzysnki said of his RBI singles. “At the end of the day, all that matters is they fell in and the guys were able to score.”
Ogando struggled with his fastball command from the outset, including two walks and a two-out, two-run double by Brandon Moss in the first. Ogando allowed a run in the third on a two-out double by Coco Crisp that hopped out of Cruz’s glove near the right-field wall.
Ogando threw 92 pitches and lasted only four innings. Only 48 strikes were strikes, and he walked five in his third start since returning from the disabled list.
“I just didn’t feel good tonight,” Ogando said. “I didn’t have my control like I normally do. My arm feels great. I lost that routine of throwing, and I’m a little rusty.”
Frasor (2-2) earned the win by recording four straight outs, including the final out of the fifth with the bases loaded. That was the key sequence for the Rangers, who got five more scoreless innings from their bullpen.
Washington tied Bobby Valentine for the most wins by a Rangers manager at 581. The winning streak comes in the aftermath of a 45-minute team meeting Sunday in Cleveland spearheaded by Washington.
Things have changed dramatically for a team that could do almost nothing right just a week ago.
“It’s baseball,” Pierzynski said. “You can’t explain it. That’s no explanation for any of this stuff. It’s baseball. That’s why this game is so darn hard. You never know when things are going to turn. Hopefully, it can stay this way.”