Opponents have clamped on the Texas Rangers’ vaunted running game the past few seasons, so much so that they finally had to adjust after tough year on the bases in 2012.
These days the Rangers don’t take as many chances, because the opportunities just haven’t been as plentiful. But the Rangers still have the personnel to run a team into submission when given the chance.
Just ask the Los Angeles Angels.
The Rangers stole six bases Tuesday night, and five of them resulted in runs as the Rangers pulled away late for an 8-3 victory that moved them within a game of first-place Oakland in the American League West.
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Yu Darvish endured a rough early going to work seven innings en route to his team-leading 11th win, and the Rangers won for the eighth time in nine games despite not having a double, triple or homer among their 12 hits.
“It was quite exciting to go out there and be able to play the game that we love to play,” manager Ron Washington said. “That’s go out there and run the bases and make things happen, and that’s exactly what we did. It was a night where everything game together, but it’s always been an emphasis.”
Leonys Martin stole three bases and scored twice, and Elvis Andrus scored three runs and had two steals. Andrus stole second, went to third on an Ian Kinsler grounder and scored the go-ahead run on a single by Adrian Beltre in the eighth, and the Rangers ran their way to four unearned runs in the ninth.
The rally started when pinch hitter Craig Gentry walked with two outs and stole second on the first pitch. Martin followed with a slow bouncer to first base, but Kole Calhoun bobbled it just long enough for Martin to reach and for Gentry to score.
Martin then took second and scored on an Andrus single. Kinsler kept the rally going with another single, and both scored as Beltre and A.J. Pierzynski also laced singles for a five-run margin in a game that had been tied an inning earlier.
“You don’t need to hit a homer to actually win or score a lot of runs,” Andrus said. “It feels great. As a team, it’s sometimes more fun this way than when you have a bunch of extra-base hits. We took advantage today, and we have to keep going.”
The Rangers got started quickly thanks to a wild first inning from Angels starter Garrett Richards. Martin opened with a single and stole second, and Andrus followed with an infield hit to push Martin to third.
Kinsler made it 1-0 with a sacrifice fly before Andrus got to third via a wild pitch and a steal. He scored with two outs as Richards uncorked another wild pitch while Pierzynski batted.
But the Angels quickly countered as Calhoun and Mike Trout opened the home half with back-to-back homers for only the second time in club history. Josh Hamilton gave the crowd a thrill with a towering flyout to left field.
“After Trout, it was Hamilton,” Darvish said. “I was kind of afraid that Hamilton was going to hit one out as well.”
Darvish had to escape a jam in the third, but the Angels took a 3-2 lead as Erick Aybar opened the fourth with a double and J.B. Shuck followed with a single.
Richards, though, couldn’t keep the lead. Mitch Moreland and Jurickson Profar started the fifth with singles, and after Engel Beltre sacrificed, Moreland scored the tying run on a chopper to second by Martin.
Darvish quelled a two-out threat in the seventh by getting Hamilton on another fly ball to leave runners at the corners. Darvish allowed eight hits, walked three, struck out six and threw 113 pitches, but the right-hander hardly was pleased.
“It’s probably the worst outing I’ve had this year,” he said. “But I was able to keep the game close and help us get the win.”
The Rangers’ legs didn’t hurt, either, as they improved to 2-0 since losing their team leader in homers and RBIs, Nelson Cruz, to suspension. But this is a team that likes to runs no matter who is — or isn’t —in the lineup.
“Raising hell on the base paths is something we always want to do, even if Cruz was here,” Washington said. “If Cruz was here tonight, it would have been the same thing. Our game is what it is, and we’re not going to change it.”