Sports

September 17, 2013

Three homers, Ogando help Rangers snap seven-game slide

Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus homer and drive in three, and Leonys Martin has three extra-base hits.

With one swing of his bat, the game’s first swing on its first pitch, Ian Kinsler ended some of the Texas Rangers’ misery on offense.

His next swing, two innings later, helped a little bit more. Then, Elvis Andrus took his turn fueling the beleaguered offense. Leonys Martin made a significant contribution, as well.

On the mound, starting pitcher Alexi Ogando kept pumping his fastball in the mid-90s through five strong innings, and the key pieces in the bullpen finished just as strong.

The end result was the Texas Rangers’ first victory in nine days, and at no point this season have they needed a win more than the one they recorded Tuesday night.

Kinsler and Andrus each homered and drove in three runs, and Ogando allowed one run in five innings as the Rangers snapped their seven-game losing streak with a 7-1 victory over Tampa Bay.

Martin doubled twice and homered in the ninth to help push the Rangers back into a tie atop the wild-card standings. But this win, ultimately, might do much more than that.

“You have to win one to get a streak going,” right fielder Alex Rios said. “We haven’t lost the faith in our team. We just needed a game like this to get the team rolling.”

The Rangers did a little bit of everything on offense, ending a seven-game streak without a homer and leading for the first time since the Sept. 8 win at Anaheim.

They also had productive outs and strung together quality at-bats in succession.

“Hopefully it gets us going, doing what we know we can do,” Rios said.

The Rangers were on the attack against Jeremy Hellickson, who threw only 40 pitches before being removed after only 2 2/3 innings.

Kinsler didn’t wait long to get them going, lining the first pitch he saw from Hellickson into the left-field seats for the Rangers’ first lead since Sept. 8.

His next swing, in the third, resulted in a two-run single after Mitch Moreland walked and Martindoubled to start the inning.

Andrus followed and drove his third homer of the season to left for a 5-0 lead. Andrus has three homers since Aug. 10 and is the Rangers’ leader in RBIs since Aug. 1 with 28.

But the shortstop said that the contributions by Kinsler and Ogando were bigger than his.

“It was huge, that home run by Ian,” Andrus said. “That just made the whole team relax. We hadn’t scored first in awhile, and I think that helped Ogando, too. He did a tremendous job.”

The Rays got to Ogando in the third after he had retired the first seven he faced. Jose Lobaton hit a towering homer to right field and was the first of three straight Tampa Bay hitters to reach in a 24-pitch inning for Ogando.

But the right-hander kept going on a night when the Rangers were hoping to get 60 pitches or five innings from him. He threw 69, allowing two hits and a walk in five innings as a spot starter.

“Ogando went out there and went way beyond the call of duty,” manager Ron Washington said. “He kept telling us he was strong. He did it tonight in a situation we needed it, and he deserves a ton of credit.”

Ogando hadn’t thrown more than two innings since Aug. 13, when he went 61/3 innings in a loss to Milwaukee, and he had to go on the disabled list a week later. His performance earned him another start Sunday at Kansas City.

But he said he feels as well as he did at the start of the season, which was shown in his mid-90s velocity and the sharpness of his slider.

“I pitched well, and the team won,” Ogando said. “It’s always a good feeling to have run support. But you have to keep the same approach.”

To that end, the Rangers didn’t relax with their lead. Four relievers worked a scoreless inning apiece, and no champagne was sprayed afterward in the clubhouse. But there was a sense of relief after their first win in nine days.

“You’ve got to have a sense of relief when you lose seven in a row,” Washington said. “No team in baseball wants to go seven opportunities without getting a win, especially when you know you’re better than that. It was just nice to go out there and sustain throughout the whole game. That’s something we’ve been missing.”

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