ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—Gary Matthews’ first hit of the season was nothing to sneeze at.
Matthews hit a bases-loaded triple in his first game off the disabled list, and the Texas Rangers used a 13-hit attack against Kelvim Escobar and two relievers to beat the Los Angeles Angels 11-3 Wednesday night.
Matthews had been sidelined because of a strained rib cage muscle. The injury occurred when he was driving his car and tried to prevent himself from sneezing.
“I did it sneezing, of all things,” Matthews said. “I tried to hold it in because I was driving. It’s one of those things where you’re disappointed about it, but there’s nothing you can do. You have to take the time to get healthy. Unfortunately I missed all of spring training, so it was tough. But after that first at-bat you sort of get the jitters out, you calm down and start to see the ball better.”
He was activated a couple of days earlier than planned, because rookie second baseman Ian Kinsler dislocated his left thumb in Tuesday’s loss and was placed on the 15-day DL.
Mark Teixeira and Gerald Laird got their first home runs of the season for the Rangers, who scored just two fewer runs that they totaled in their previous five games. Laird was 3-for-5 with two RBIs in his second start behind the plate.
“Our offense had been struggling and we haven’t been playing up to our abilities, so it was nice to break through and get a lot of runs,” Teixeira said. “Escobar is such a tough pitcher and he’s got a lot of ways to get people out, but we really battled. He struck out some guys, but the big hit by Gary Matthews put us over the top.”
The Rangers had lost eight straight against the two-time defending AL West champions, 13 of 15, and each of the previous nine meetings in Anaheim—tying a franchise record for most consecutive losses in one opponent’s ballpark.
“It just feels good to get a big win, especially against this team,” Matthews said. “It’s grown into a pretty good rivalry, and anybody who tells you they don’t feel the intensity when we play this club is definitely lying. From what I hear, we’ve been having problems pitching and hitting on the same day. And tonight we went out and did that.”
John Koronka (1-1) allowed two runs and six hits in six innings, striking out five. The left-hander was one of three pitchers the Rangers acquired in trades after No. 2 starter Adam Eaton went on the disabled list.
Koronka went to the mound with a 1-0 lead after Phil Nevin’s two-out RBI single in the top of the first, then struck out the side with his first 11 pitches and stranded two runners in scoring position in the second.
The Rangers increased their lead to 6-1 with a five-run fourth, started by Teixeira’s leadoff homer. It came in his 35th at-bat of the season. Last year, he averaged a homer every 15 at-bats and finished with 43, the fourth-most ever by a switch-hitter.
Laird drove in a run with a high-chopping, bases-loaded single to shortstop, and Matthews capped the rally with his triple to left-center. Four of the runs were unearned, the result of a fielding error by Gold Glove shortstop Orlando Cabrera. It was the first error a Rangers opponent committed in the first 10 games.
Escobar (1-1) allowed eight runs and eight hits in 4 1-3 innings, and left the game after D’Angelo Jimenez’s RBI single. There was some concern that the right-hander might have to skip a start after cracking the nail on his middle finger during Friday’s victory over the Yankees. But the nail was filed down properly and he was able to go—with Hector Carrasco ready in the bullpen just in case.
“We kept asking him about the nail and he said it was feeling good,” rookie catcher Jeff Mathis said. “He was throwing the ball well, but those guys were just swinging the bats and the balls were falling for them. Those guys are good hitters and that’s why they put up the numbers they do.”
Vladimir Guerrero, who singled in the fourth and scored on Robb Quinlan’s sacrifice fly, has hit safely in all 39 career games against Texas—the longest streak by any player against one team since the divisional play began in 1969. The 2004 AL MVP, batting .451 against the Rangers, left the game because of stomach flu after striking out in the fifth.
Michael Young had two singles, giving him 900 career hits. … Texas RF Kevin Mench flew back to Dallas and will have his sore foot examined by team physician Keith Meister on Thursday before getting a second cortisone injection. He is expected to rejoining the team Friday night at Oakland. … Quinlan, who raised his career average against left-handed pitchers to .328 on Saturday with two hits against Randy Johnson, got his second start of the season at 1B in place of the slumping Casey Kotchman. Quinlan finished 2-for-3 with two doubles—both off left-handers.