A.J. Pierzynski’s return to U.S. Cellular Field provided some feel-good moments Friday night, but the Texas Rangers had a long-awaited reunion of their own.
Their hitters reconnected with their long-lost first love, the home run, and they caught up on lost time during the opener of a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox.
Part-timers Jeff Baker and Adam Rosales swatted two-run shots, Mitch Moreland added another in the eighth, and Ian Kinsler and Adrian Beltre added solo homers as the Rangers powered their way to an 11-5 victory.
The five homers, including the first inside-the-park homer of Kinsler’s career, were a season-high for the Rangers, who had one long ball in each of the previous three games but only four in the past 10.
The win, coupled with an Oakland loss, boosted the Rangers’ lead in the American League West to 3½ games.
“We’ve got guys that can hit the ball out of the ballpark, but we just haven’t been hitting it out of the ballpark,” manager Ron Washington said. “That tells me we’re capable of winning ballgames many, many ways, not just with the long ball.
“I know that’s something that’s been real prevalent in Texas, but Texas is complete now. We can play baseball any way we have to play it.”
The homers backed Martin Perez, who overcame a shaky second inning to allow four runs in seven innings and won for the seventh time since he was recalled June 22. Four of the circuit clouts came off Chris Sale, the White Sox ace left-hander who had allowed only 14 homers in 1651/3 innings entering the start.
He worked an easy first inning and had two outs and the bases empty in the second before Alex Rios dumped a single into right field. Baker followed with a 408-foot blast to center for the game’s first two runs.
Craig Gentry, the next batter, kept the inning alive when he took a 1-2 pitch off his leg, a mistake that quickly cost Sale. Rosales followed with a shot into the left-field seats, his first hit and RBIs since joining the Rangers.
“I’m a fastball hitter, but off Sale especially,” said Rosales, who is 5 for 9 in his career against the two-time All-Star. “It’s always important to produce. Hitting in the 9 spot, it turns the lineup over and it gives us such momentum.”
But the White Sox quickly trimmed their deficit to 4-3 against Perez, who allowed a single, a double and another single to start the bottom half. A balk helped another run score on a two-out single by Gordon Beckham.
The rookie knows the importance of producing a shutdown inning after his team scores, but he said that he tried to be too perfect with his pitches and got away from the basics.
Perez (7-3) allowed only one run in his final five innings, didn’t allow a hit in his final three innings, and retired the final nine batters he faced.
“My mind was going too fast,” said Perez, who threw 110 pitches. “It’s not just about your body. You have to be relaxed in your mind, too.”
Kinsler, though, collected the 24th inside-the-park homer in club history with one out in the third. His grounder down the left-field line rolled into a drainage area between the side wall and the ground but was plainly visible, and Dayan Viciedo attempted to make a play on it but couldn’t find it.
Kinsler kept running, and White Sox manager Robin Ventura argued until he was ejected.
“I just kept running,” Kinsler said. “It worked out for me.”
Rosales brought in another run in the fourth, this time with a sacrifice fly to score Rios, and Beltre’s solo shot in the fifth tied him with Nelson Cruz at 27 for the club lead in homers.
The Rangers weren’t done with Sale, who hit Leonys Martin with one out in the seventh. Martin stole second and came home two batters later on a single by Kinsler for an 8-4 lead.
Moreland connected in the eighth while pinch hitting for Baker. It was the Rangers’ first pinch homer since Moreland did it June 9, 2012, at San Francisco, and the third in the game by a role player.
“You’ve got a lot of guys who are selfless, and everyone knows their role and how you’re going to be utilized,” Baker said. “It’s not dwelling on the fact that you’re not in there. It’s being prepared for the times you are.”