Texas Rangers' hero admits winning squeeze bunt was foul ball

DETROIT -- Alberto Gonzalez had never attempted a suicide squeeze before Sunday afternoon, even though Ron Washington said that the utility infielder is the kind of player who must execute the do-or-die play.

Gonzalez did as the Texas Rangers' manager instructed in the 11th inning, getting a bunt down as Nelson Cruz scored what proved to be the winning run.

The run counted despite objections from Detroit manager Jim Leyland, who claimed the bunt had hit Gonzalez in the batter's box and should have been a foul ball.

Leyland had a case, as Gonzalez would later admit. The ball hit him in the knee.

So, add good fortune as another way the hottest team in baseball has won a game to start the season. The Rangers also got more solid pitching and another big day from Josh Hamilton as they beat the Tigers 3-2 to win three of four in a rematch of the 2011 American League Championship Series.

The Rangers finished their first road trip of the season at 8-1. Their 13-3 record after 16 games is the best in club history and the second-best in the major leagues since 2003.

"It's good to be able to go out there and play good baseball," catcher Mike Napoli said. "We just try to win series. It just so happens we put a pretty good start together. We're playing pretty good baseball.

"It's never good to get off to a bad start. We know the ups and downs of a season, but we're going to try to ride it out as much as possible."

Hamilton went 3 for 3 with a first-inning home run and added a game-tying sacrifice fly in the eighth, and Colby Lewis delivered his fourth straight quality start.

That's proof enough that no one group is carrying the Rangers through the early going, though veteran Michael Young credits the starting pitching for the successful start.

The rotation has a 2.18 ERA and a 10-1 record, with the lone loss coming Saturday as Neftali Feliz tossed a complete game. The starters have a baseball-best 13 quality starts after Lewis allowed two runs in seven innings Sunday.

The Rangers, though, remain most known for an offense that entered Sunday as baseball's leader in five major categories, including average and runs.

The team's speed is also generating attention and producing runs, as was evident ahead of Hamilton's sacrifice fly, and their defense has been spectacular at times.

"We all have an idea of what it takes to have a good season," Young said. "We definitely want to make sure we're getting better as the year progresses. "That's been the goal the last couple years, and it's worked out for us."

Lewis was on the hook for his first loss of the season when Brennan Boesch found the right-field seats with one out in the sixth. It was Boesch's third career homer against Lewis, who has allowed a homer in three of four starts to start the season.

The Rangers tied it two innings later as Elvis Andrus walked with one out in the eighth and tried for second on a wild pitch that Tigers catcher Alex Avila couldn't immediately locate.

Once he did, his throw to second sailed into center to allow Andrus to take third. Hamilton delivered three pitches later.

Alexi Ogando, Mike Adams and Robbie Ross (3-0) recorded nine straight outs through the 10th, and the Tigers were forced to use rookie Thad Weber in his first major-league appearance in the 11th.

The Rangers quickly loaded the bases for Gonzalez, who bunted the first pitch as Cruz raced home. The umpires huddled at Leyland's request, but the original call stood.

"It was a close game, and that's what the manager asked me to do," said Gonzalez, who started for Adrian Beltre (hamstring). "I'm going to keep working hard to be ready for any opportunity."

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram