The Texas Rangers, manager Ron Washington says, don’t need to rely on home runs to win games, which is a vast departure from their franchise’s reputation.
The 2014 Rangers, though, aren’t the 2012 Rangers or the 1998 Rangers. At this point, they aren’t even the 2013 Rangers, and that’s not a good thing.
For any team to go six games without a homer is noteworthy. For the Rangers, who stack Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre in the middle of the lineup, it’s especially eye-opening.
But they finally broke through with the long ball Friday night, and homers by Shin-Soo Choo and Alex Rios in a three-run sixth lifted the Rangers out of an early hole and helped them snap a four-game slid in a 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
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“I didn’t know about it,” Choo said of the six-game power outage. “A lot of people talked about it that we didn’t have any home runs. It’s baseball. In baseball, a lot of things happen.”
Colby Lewis allowed two runs in 5 2/3 innings, and five relievers finished off the Angels. But the Rangers trailed 2-0 after Lewis surrendered two-out runs in the second and fourth, and the offense had mustered only three hits in five innings against Hector Santiago.
But Choo hit the first pitch of the sixth inning out to center field, and Rios followed a two-out Prince Fielder single with a drive over the wall in left-center to push the Rangers into a 3-2 lead.
After Lewis and Aaron Poreda worked a scoreless bottom of the sixth, Choo delivered a one-out single in the seventh to score Leonys Martin, and Michael Choice scored from third on a chopper by the next hitter, Elvis Andrus.
Choo, who went 3 for 4, left the game before the bottom of the seventh with soreness in his left ankle, which he sprained April 19. But the decision to remove him from the came was precautionary, and he expects to play Saturday.
“It’s not really bad,” he said. “But it’s not comfortable to play the outfield.”
Rios said that Lewis (2-1) as the key ingredient in the Rangers’ first win since April 26. The right-hander allowed the two early runs on seven hits, striking out six while walking one and hitting another.
His fastball velocity was in the low 90s, and he was able to locate it regularly. He also said that his changeup was effective on a night that he thought he would go deeper in the game.
Washington, though, lifted Lewis after a two-out walk to Collin Cowgill in the sixth. With a left-handed hitter up in a 3-2 game, and with the Angels having success stealing against Lewis, Poreda was summoned for the lefty-lefty matchup and to keep Cowgill close at first.
“It was the right thing to do, for me,” Washington said.
It proved to be the right thing for the Rangers, who found their power stroke for the first time since Donnie Murphy went deep April 23 at Oakland.
Washington doesn’t want the Rangers to rely on home runs to fuel their offense, but he wasn’t complaining after Choo and Rios connect at Angel Stadium.
“The more at-bats those guys get, the ones that are supposed to hit it out of the ballpark will,” Washington said. “All I want to do is continue to keep putting runs on the board, keep pitching the way we’re pitching and play defense.”