Mitch Moreland had a chance to be the hero with the bases loaded in the eighth inning Wednesday night at Petco Park.
Coming off the bench as a pinch-hitter for the third consecutive game against the San Diego Padres, Moreland struck out to end the top of the inning.
He was just hoping for another shot.
It came in the 10th, after Elvis Andrus’ one-out single. Moreland, who stayed in the game to play first base for Prince Fielder, was back in the same spot.
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This time, Moreland ripped a 0-1 fastball to the right-field corner. Andrus raced around to score from first to put Texas up 4-3. Sam Dyson pitched the final two innings to secure the win as Texas moved to within two games of the first-place Houston Astros in the American League West. It’s the closest the Rangers have been since they were 1 1/2 games back on June 13.
“I felt like my first couple of at-bats I sped it up a little bit, maybe trying to do a little too much,” said Moreland, who was 0 for 2 pinch-hitting in the two previous games. “I was happy to go up there in my last at-bat, I felt like I was able to slow down a little bit and get a good pitch and kind of freed it up a bit.”
Manager Jeff Banister decided to start Prince Fielder at the National League park for two reasons. He felt like Fielder was on the verge of snapping out of a mini-slump while also wanting to give Moreland a few days to rest his legs. It ended up working out swimmingly as the Rangers took two of three after losing the opener.
“We thought Prince was swinging the bat very well,” he said. “We needed to get Mitch some time off his lower half. I think it showed up big for us tonight. I think you saw some freshness in the swing. It looked like it got [Fielder] going.”
Fielder was 4 for 11 with three runs and two RBI in the series.
Cole Hamels pitched seven innings but left trailing 3-2. The Rangers tied it with a run in the eighth when Choo led off with a walk and moved to third on Fielder’s single. Adrian Beltre scored Choo with a sacrifice fly to center.
The Rangers had the bases loaded in the ninth, which included a pinch-hit, broken-bat single by Josh Hamilton that put two on with no outs against Padres closer Craig Kimbrel. It was Hamilton’s first at-bat since August 15.
After Choo walked to load the bases, Kimbrel caught pinch-hitter Mike Napoli looking and got Beltre on a check-swing.
“It felt good to help contribute in some way other than being a cheerleader and patting guys on the butt all the time,” Hamilton said. “It’s good to be on the other end, coming in and getting some high-fives.”
Moreland, who will be back in the lineup playing first base Friday in the series opener against the Angels in Anaheim, understands Banister’s thinking.
“It’s September. Everybody is trying to fight through pain,” he said. “We were here [in a N.L. park] and I didn’t [start] for a few games. It’s part of it. I’m just trying to be ready when my number is called.
“It’s a great one to win. It gives the team even more momentum.”
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760