A three-game sweep was just a strike away — two times, no less — but suddenly the team that couldn’t string together hits or deliver when needed actually started doing those things.
And, boy, did the Texas Rangers need it.
After watching the bullpen blow another lead, the Rangers staged a two-out rally in the ninth inning to tie the game, and Leonys Martin started the 11th with a home run as the Rangers escaped Angel Stadium with a 5-4 win.
Mitch Moreland drove in two runs, including the tying run in the ninth on a single off fill-in closer Joe Smith. Martin’s homer was his first of the year after being robbed of a walk-off grand slam April 12 against Houston.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak and possibly gave the Rangers some needed life as they return to Arlington for a six-game homestand that begins Monday against Seattle.
“We had a couple tough ones the first two games,” Moreland said. “To be able to scratch that one out and grind it out to the end and take a win home to start the homestand is going to be nice.”
Rougned Odor and Moreland drove in the Rangers’ first two runs — on a hit-by-pitch and a sacrifice fly in the second and third innings, respectively — and Nick Martinez tossed six scoreless innings before giving way to Anthony Bass.
Bass was working on consecutive days for the first time this season after serving as the long man, and the Angels needed only three batters to tie the score.
Bass was victimized by more shaky defense from right fielder Shin-Soo Choo, who misplayed a fly ball hit down the line by Johnny Giavotella.
Instead of an out, it was a leadoff double, and Mike Trout connected for a two-run homer two batters later to tie it at 2.
Shawn Tolleson, the Rangers’ best reliever so far this season, got the first batter of the eighth, but the next four Angels reached. The fourth was Giavotella, who blooped a single to center to make it 3-2.
The first two Rangers went quickly in the ninth, but Prince Fielder singled to left and Adrian Beltre followed with an infield hit. Moreland followed with a line drive to right field, and pinch-runner Delino DeShields scored easily to tie the game.
Neftali Feliz (1-1) pitched two innings for the win, allowing a run in the 11th but stranding the potential go-ahead run at first base.
“We did a good job today of going up there and creating opportunities,” Moreland said.
The Rangers stranded 28 runners in the series, including 14 in the finale. They collected nine hits, which is significant for a team that has the worst batting average in the major leagues.
Moreland had three hits, and Beltre had two, lifting his average to .194. Martin also had two, and he and Fielder have been the Rangers’ two best offensive players the past two weeks.
Martin had been doing his job from the leadoff spot. Occasionally that includes flexing his muscles, which he did on a 3-2 pitch from Jose Alvarez in the 11th.
“He got behind in the count and then it got to 3-2,” Martin said. “I knew he was going to throw the fastball because he didn’t want to put me on base. It was a really good game, coming back, nobody on, two outs in the ninth.”
It’s a win that could spark the Rangers.
“It should give us some confidence and prove to the guys that they can punch through when they need to,” said manager Jeff Banister, who was ejected in the eighth inning for arguing a call that was overturned by replay.
“The way that we gave it up, to continue to battle and grind it out ... it was nice to see that their efforts were rewarded today.”
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760