ARLINGTON, Texas (AP)—Hank Blalock was glad to know he was going to knock in the tying run with his hard hit toward the gap. The Texas Rangers third baseman felt even better when the ball hit the top of the fence—and went over.
Blalock’s two-out, two-run homer in the eighth inning dropped into the Texas bullpen, giving the Rangers a 2-1 win over the New York Yankees on Tuesday night.
“It was a breaking ball, I just reacted to it and hit it,” Blalock said. “Off my bat, I was glad I could drive the tying run in. Then it bounced off the top of the fence.”
David Dellucci and Michael Young started the eighth with consecutive singles off Wayne Franklin (0-1) before Mark Teixeira grounded into a double play. Blalock then hit a breaking ball for his 19th homer, the major league-leading 157th for the Rangers.
Tanyon Sturtze was unavailable after pitching 2 1-3 innings Monday, and the Yankees were saving Tom Gordon as their closer because Mariano Rivera had pitched four of the previous five days. That left Yankees manager Joe Torre with no reliable options.
“It wasn’t a bad outing for Franklin, but it was a bad pitch,” Torre said. “He’d gotten three ground balls in a row, but he left a breaking ball up.”
Texas manager Buck Showalter joked that the pitchers sitting in the bullpen had their feet on the fence pushing forward as Blalock’s ball came toward them. It was that close.
New York lost for only the third time in 14 games and dropped a half-game behind Boston in the AL East, one day after taking sole possession of first place for the first time since a season-opening victory over the Red Sox.
The Rangers had lost four of its previous five games, including consecutive one-run losses.
A night after the Yankees won 11-10 in the opener of the series matching two of the three highest-scoring teams in the major leagues, pitching and defense dominated.
“It was a funny win tonight,” Showalter said. “It’s hard to believe they were the same teams out there.”
The Yankees, who lead the majors with 511 runs, got their only run in the eighth off Chan Ho Park. Bubba Crosby drew a leadoff walk, moved up on Derek Jeter’s sacrifice bunt and came around on Robinson Cano’s single.
Mike Mussina pitched six shutout innings without getting his 10th win, leaving with the game scoreless after throwing 109 pitches. Park struck out five, but allowed six hits and three walks while hitting two other batters over 109 pitches through 7 1-3 innings.
Mussina struck out seven while allowing four singles and three walks in the right-hander’s 29th career start against the Rangers.
“I came in after the sixth and (Torre) said that’s good enough,” Mussina said. `I still felt pretty good. I looked at him kind of funny. But Joe said 109 pitches was enough, so I didn’t get an option. It wasn’t up to debate.”
After allowing two runners against the first three hitters, Mussina faced the minimum 11 batters over the next 3 2-3 innings. Two runners reached during that stretch, but both were caught stealing by catcher Jorge Posada.
Felix Rodriguez, activated from the disabled list earlier Tuesday after missing 55 games recovering from left knee surgery, pitched the seventh for New York.
Park benefited from three double plays in a span of four innings, the most crucial being the last one in the sixth with runners at first and third.
Young snagged Alex Rodriguez’s grounder to shortstop to start an inning-ending double play. On the previous play, Young made a diving stop on Gary Sheffield’s ball up the middle to force Cano, who had reached on a one-out double, to hold at third base.
Alfonso Soriano fielded Jeter’s grounder near second base to start an inning-ending double play in the third. Two innings later, Soriano tagged Posada running in front of him before turning a full circle and throwing to first.
Soriano had 11 stolen bases without getting caught until the Yankees series. He was tagged out sliding into the second base Tuesday, a night after he beat Posada’s throw on another attempt only to overslide the base. … Jeter took extra BP before Tuesday’s game. He went 0-for-3 and has just two hits his last 23 at-bats, dropping his average to .296. … Jason Giambi was thrown out at second base trying to stretch a second-inning hit. Giambi rounded the base at the same time center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. was picking up the ball, but kept running anyway.