After the 15-game mark of the 2014 season, it’s apparent that the Texas Rangers are challenged at the plate.
Sure, there’s 90 percent of the season left to be played. Slumping hitters are going to get hot. Injured players are going to return.
But a team that currently needs contributions from Josh Wilson, Robinson Chirinos and Kevin Kouzmanoff, among others, to be successful also needs a few breaks.
Good fortune smiled on the Rangers in the final two innings Wednesday night.
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Three straight batters reached with two outs in the ninth inning, and Leonys Martin delivered the game-ending single as the Rangers rallied to a 3-2 victory over Seattle.
The Rangers pulled off their fourth walk-off win of the season, and did it with the bottom half of their lineup finding a way on a night when Felix Hernandez was better than Yu Darvish.
“When you play a certain amount of those games, you realize you’ve been there before and it gives you a little bit of confidence when those situations come,” designated hitter Mitch Moreland said.
“Everyone would like to win by four or five runs every night, but it’s not going to happen like that. It just shows that we’re not going to give up, we’re going to fight to the end, and that’s a great sign, especially this early in the season.”
The biggest break of all might have came when Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon lifted Hernandez from the game. He had allowed only three singles in the first seven innings before Martin started the eighth with a triple off the right-field wall.
Though Hernandez was at only 96 pitches and had retired 10 straight before facing Martin, McClendon went to the bullpen.
“I had talked to him before he went out, and he said he thought he had a little bit left in the tank,” McClendon said. “But he got that fastball up and started to lose his location a little bit. And he said he was pretty much out of gas.”
Pinch hitter Michael Choice quickly collected a sacrifice fly off Charlie Furbush to trim the Rangers’ deficit to 2-1, but that was it for them in the eighth.
Closer Fernando Rodney opened the ninth by getting the Rangers’ top two power hitters, Alex Rios and Prince Fielder, on a flyout to right and a strikeout.
Kouzmanoff, though, singled off the glove shortstop Brad Miller, who could only deflect a well-placed roller up the middle. Moreland followed by taking a walk in which the bat didn’t leave his shoulder once in six pitches.
Donnie Murphy pinch-hit for Wilson, and the game appeared to be over as he shot a grounder to Miller. But Miller didn’t field the ball cleanly, and his toss to second base was high and lifted Robinson Cano off the bag.
All runners were safe.
“It’s one of those things where you’re thinking, ‘Please take a little hop,’ ” Murphy said. “It did. I think it handcuffed him. But we got lucky right there and took advantage of it.”
The gaffe extended the game for Martin. Rodney’s first pitch sailed to the backstop and bounced toward third as Kouzmanoff chugged home to tie the game.
Martin took a pitch before dumping a single in front of left fielder Dustin Ackley.
“Oh my gosh, I couldn’t believe it when it happened,” Martin said.
Hernandez and Darvish both went seven innings in the majors’ featured pitching matchup of the night.
The Mariners got to Darvish for both their runs with two outs in the second inning. Nick Franklin tripled with one out, Ackley walked after Justin Smoak struck out, and No. 9 hitter Mike Zunino, the only right-handed hitter in the lineup, singled for a 1-0 lead.
Abraham Almonte followed with an opposite-field single to left for a 2-0 lead.
“I had to have really good communication with Chirinos during the game,” Darvish said. “We both knew they were trying to hack early, and he was calling a lot of fastballs and sliders. I told him I have other pitches. After that we were able to get on the same page and throw a lot of effective breaking balls for the first pitch.”
Darvish, who again cut his right thumb while throwing his hard curveball, retired the final seven he faced and was done after 107 pitches in seven innings.
Hernandez, though, was better. He pitched around a two-out double by Rios in the first, spoiled back-to-back two-out singles in the third, and didn’t allow another hit until Martin’s triple.
The Rangers, though, caught a break when he exited and caught several in the ninth. They weren’t complaining.
“Those kinds of wins build character,” manager Ron Washington said. “We have a new group that we’re going out there playing with, and they’re learning how to hang together and play the game until the third out is made. We pulled it off tonight.”