ARLINGTON, Texas (AP)—Rafael Palmeiro got within one swing of his 500th homer—then struck out to end the game.
“It was really no different than any other at-bat. The game was on the line. I was trying to keep the rally going, keep the game going,” Palmeiro said. “I just wanted to put the ball in play, I wasn’t trying to hit a home run.”
Palmeiro’s homer in the eighth was his ninth of the season. It put him within one of becoming the 19th player in the 500-homer club, and got the Rangers to 8-5.
The stage was set for a dramatic entrance into the elite club. Michael Young led off the Texas ninth with a homer and Carl Everett reached on a single before Palmeiro came up as the potential tying run with two outs.
After taking three pitches for a 2-1 count, Palmeiro swung and missed at a pitch high and out of the strike zone. Cliff Politte then threw a ball outside for a full count before Palmeiro swung and missed again.
“I totally blocked 500 out of my mind. Now that you bring it up, Holy Cow!,” said Politte, who got five outs for his second save.
“I’m glad I didn’t think about Palmeiro because it could have been a different ballgame,” Politte said. “I was trying to make a quality pitch, but I made a terrible pitch and he swung through it.”
Shannon Stewart hit a three-run homer for his 1,000th career hit, becoming the seventh Toronto player to reach the milestone. He’s also the fastest to do it, in his 819th game—75 fewer than Tony Fernandez.
“It means a lot, but it’s something I never planned or thought about,” Stewart said. “I just tried to get on base and score runs. To get it with a home run makes it more meaningful.”
Palmeiro’s homer in the eighth, off Trever Miller, ended a stretch of 16 at-bats over six games since his last homer May 1 at Toronto. He gets a chance to reach the milestone at home, in a three-game series this weekend.
“Do you think I need this right now?,” said Palmeiro, surrounded at his locker by reporters. “I want to get it over with so we can concentrate on the team. We lost the game today.”
Palmeiro said he’s still having problems swinging because of his sore right elbow, having been hit by a pitch Saturday in Cleveland. He also fouled a pitch off his knee Tuesday in the opener of the series against the Blue Jays.
“I’m certainly aware. The guy’s tough. The guy plays through a lot,” Rangers manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s so smooth of a player that you lose sight of how much effort he puts into it. Raffy’s not swinging the bat as good as he’s capable. We all know that.”
Myers’ third homer leading off the second against Ryan Drese (2-2) put the Blue Jays ahead to stay. After Dave Berg and Mike Bordick reached with two outs, Stewart—who started the game with a leadoff single—hit his first homer of the season.
Stewart walked and stole a base to start the fifth, when Toronto scored three unearned runs. After Drese struck out two batters and was relieved by Brian Shouse, Stewart scored when Carlos Delgado reached on third baseman Hank Blalock’s error. Myers and Hinske followed with consecutive RBI doubles.
Drese gave up five runs—four earned—and five hits in 4 2-3 innings.
Myers added an RBI single in the seventh.
Texas chased Cory Lidle with three straight hits to start the seventh, the last being Young’s RBI single. Everett then hit an RBI single off Miller before the reliever got out of the jam with two grounders, including Alex Rodriguez’s inning-ending double play.
Lidle (5-2) gave up four runs and eight hits to win his fourth straight decision over five starts.
Rodriguez had an RBI single in the third and Everett a sacrifice fly in thefifth for Texas.
Palmeiro has 32 homers against Toronto. He has 26 against Cleveland. … The Rangers have lost three of four to Toronto since a 10-game winning streak that was their longest against the Blue Jays. … Fernandez is Toronto’scareer hits leader with 1,583 over 12 seasons.