Rangers 6, Devil Rays 5

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ARLINGTON, Texas (AP)—Once the offense gave Texas the lead, the Rangers’ relievers made sure they sealed the win.

Kevin Mench hit a go-ahead home run in the fifth inning and the bullpen followed with four scoreless innings to lead the Rangers to a 6-5 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Saturday night.

“The key is the whole bullpen,” said Francisco Cordero, who saved his 35th game in 37 chances. “It’s not like I just come in the ninth and we win. They have to go through a lot of guys first.”

Doug Brocail (2-1) relieved starter Mike Bacsik to the start the fifth inning and allowed two unearned runs that tied the score 5-all but got the win. Then, Brian Shouse, Frank Francisco, Carlos Almanzar and Cordero combined on four innings of one-hit relief, with Cordero getting three outs for his 15th straight save.

“Our bullpen has the been the backbone of this team all year,” Mench said.

Texas catcher Gerald Laird threw out Carl Crawford on an attempted steal of second base to end the game.

“I was trying to get in scoring position,” said Crawford, who leads the American League with 47 stolen bases. “I got a good jump. He just a made a great throw to get me out.”

Mench’s homer off Franklin Nunez (0-1) scored the decisive run for Texas, which remained 1 1/2 games behind Oakland in the AL West one game back of Boston in the wild-card race.

Mench has a career-best 16 home runs for Rangers, who have hit just .210 over the last 27 games.

“We’re not going to have 15 or 20 hits every night,” Mench said. “We had some guys get key hits with guys in scoring position.”

Nunez, a 27-year-old right-hander, made his major league debut for Tampa Bay, which has lost 14 of its last 15 road games. The Devil Rays, 1-5 on their seven-game trip, have lost five straight games overall and are 14-25 since moving a season-high two games over .500 at 40-38 on July 3.

Bacsik gave up three runs and seven hits in four innings, while Tampa Bay’s John Halama allowed five runs and five hits in 3 2-3 innings.

“Our starting pitcher wasn’t too sharp,” Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said. “But he was pitching against a tough lineup in a good hitters’ park.”

Aubrey Huff and Jose Cruz Jr. hit RBI singles to put the Devil Rays ahead in the first.

Tampa Bay had the chance to score more in first as it loaded the bases with one out. But Jorge Cantu struck out and Toby Hall bounced out to end the threat.

“We had our chances,” Piniella said. “We just weren’t able to close the deal.”

Texas went ahead in the second on Brian Jordan’s two-run double and Gerald Laird’s sacrifice fly. Tino Martinez’s RBI groundout tied it 3-all in the third.

Gary Matthews Jr. homered leading off the fourth and Michael Young added an RBI triple, but Tampa Bay tied it again in the fifth after third baseman Herbert Perry’s throwing error was followed by Aubrey Huff’s sacrifice fly and Cantu’s RBI single.


Texas 3B Hank Blalock was not in the starting lineup, but pinch hit for Perry in the fifth and remained in the game. … Tampa Bay placed OF Rocco Baldelli on the 15-day DL with a strained right quadriceps. … OF Joey Gathright was called up from Triple-A Durham. … Texas 2B Alfonso Soriano had his 10-game hitting streak snapped. He was 0-for-5. … The Devil Rays are 5-14 against the AL West.

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