ARLINGTON, Texas (AP)—Rafael Palmeiro wanted to hit his 500th career homer at home. He waited until the last chance to do it.
Palmeiro hit a three-run homer in the seventh off Cleveland right-hander David Elder to become the second player to reach the milestone this season as the Rangers beat the Indians 17-10 Sunday to end a three-game losing streak.
“It’s a big relief,” Palmeiro said. “I tried really not to think about it too much when I went up to the plate, but it’s kind of hard not to when you have a sign that is about 600 feet long staring at your from behind the release point of the pitcher.”
With the crowd standing in anticipation, knowing Palmeiro wasn’t likely to get another at-bat, the left-hander hit a full-count fastball 370 feet over the right field fence. The Rangers play their next six games on the road.
“I tried to get a fastball in and just didn’t get it there,” said Elder, the 328th pitcher Palmeiro has homered against. “He has 500 reasons why pitchers shouldn’t make mistakes. That’s not what I wanted to happen.”
Fireworks exploded in the daylight sky and the crowd broke out into a loud and extended ovation as Palmeiro rounded the bases. Like all of his previous homers, there was no posing and no strutting after the ball left the bat.
That 10-foot by 20-foot banner that has been hanging high in center field, and updated for every homer since No. 495, was flipped over to 500. A specially designed logo commemorating Palmeiro’s feat was unveiled on the right field wall, the tarp that had covered it removed by his two sons.
His teammates mobbed him at the plate, and as the crowd chanted “Raffy!” he came out of the dugout for a curtain call.
“It’s pretty emotional for all of us with Raffy hitting 500 and us getting the win,” All-Star shortstop Alex Rodriguez said. “This is the way we all wanted it to happen.”
Palmeiro returned to the field to start the eighth inning, but only so that the crowd of 23,407 would have another chance to cheer the first baseman. Before the inning started, Herbert Perry replaced Palmeiro.
“It felt like a big giant gorilla just jumped off my back,” he said. “I wanted to do it here. It almost feels like it would have been a big letdown not to.”
This marked the third time two players have hit the historic homer in the same season. Mickey Mantle and Eddie Mathews did it in 1967, and Harmon Killebrew and Frank Robinson in 1971.
Los Angeles’ Fred McGriff could make it three with 17 more homers this season.
Among those at the game were Palmeiro’s mother, Maria, and his brother Rick, who had arrived from Miami on Wednesday.
“I talked to my mom last night, and right before she went to bed, she goes, all that I want for Mother’s Day is for you to hit the home run,” Palmeiro said. “I said thanks for adding a little bit more pressure.”
The historic ball was caught by a priest, who returned the ball to Palmeiro in return for several autographed items.
Hank Blalock went 4-for-5 with four RBIs and Texas denying the Indians their first sweep in Texas in 30 years.
Blalock’s second four-hit game of the season upped his major league-leading average to .387. His two-run single in the fifth tied the score before he scored on an error that put the Rangers ahead to stay.
The first five Texas batters reached in the fifth against Indians rookie Ricardo Rodriguez (2-4), including Blalock’s liner that tied the game at 5.
Palmeiro led off the Texas second with a double and scored on a single by Gonzalez. Everett hit a two-run homer in third, tying him with Gonzalez and others for the major league lead with 12 and putting Texas ahead 3-2.
Joaquin Benoit (1-0), who had been the scheduled starter at Boston, then retired six straight batters before hitting Phillips in the sixth.
The last Cleveland sweep in Texas was Aug. 10-12, 1973. The last time the Indians swept the Rangers was Aug. 12-14, 1980 in Cleveland. … Lewis, who had lost three straight starts after starting 3-0 his first four starts, gave up five runs on five hits and four walks in 3 2-3 innings. In his three Maystarts, he has given up 18 runs on 17 hits in 7 2-3 innings.