Rangers 2, Orioles 1
Millwood allowed one run in six innings to win for the fourth time in five starts and the Rangers went into the All-Star break with a 2-1 victory Sunday over the Baltimore Orioles to clinch another series.
“It seems like every game I’ve gotten a little better and a little more comfortable,” said Millwood, who was on the disabled list twice before June with a strained left hamstring. “It’s always easier when you’re comfortable out there. When you’re healthy, it’s easier to have good mechanics.”
The Rangers took two of three from Baltimore and are unbeaten in seven consecutive series for the first time since 2001, when they also went 6-0-1 during one stretch. But Texas (38-50) is still in last place in the AL West and 15 games behind the Los Angeles Angels.
Kenny Lofton, the 40-year-old center fielder who had missed three games with a sore left knee, hit the tiebreaking homer and scored both Texas runs. He was 2-for-2 with two walks.
“He needed some time off and he got it,” manager Ron Washington said. “He certainly is a sparkplug. … He scored the first run and then hit a bomb for us. Pitching did the rest.”
Lofton’s sixth homer was a two-out shot in the sixth off Daniel Cabrera (6-10) that snapped a 1-1 tie.
Millwood (6-7) allowed one run and five hits over six innings. He struck out four and walked three, two of those coming in the sixth when he got out of a bases-loaded jam by inducing a groundball by Jay Payton.
A double-play grounder got Millwood out of the first after he gave up two hits, a walk and a run.
“Being able to make some pitches here and there to get out of those, lately I’ve been able to do that,” Millwood said.
“He’s throwing all his pitches,” Washington said. “He’s using both sides of the plate, throwing it up, throwing it down, throwing it in and throwing it out. He’s changing speeds, he’s making pitches in tough situations.”
It was only the second time in his 15 starts this season that Millwood allowed only one run. The right-hander, who is set to start consecutive games for the Rangers, has lowered his ERA from 7.82 to 6.16 over his past five starts. Millwood is the scheduled starter for the first game after the All-Star break, Friday night at the Angels.
Frank Francisco got Texas out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth when he needed only one pitch to get Payton to ground into an inning-ending double play.
“It’s a game of luck and unfortunately I didn’t get a break today. I came up a couple of times with the bases loaded and hit it right at the shortstop,” Payton said. “A couple steps to the left or right and it’s through.”
Eric Gagne worked a perfect ninth for his 12th save in 13 chances, two days after his blown save against Baltimore in a game the Rangers won in 10 innings.
Cabrera struck out eight in his six innings.
“Cabrera wants one pitch back,” Orioles interim manager Dave Trembley said. “Lofton is who he is, an experienced guy. He sat on a 2-0 pitch and did what he’s supposed to do with it. Otherwise, (Cabrera) gave us a chance.”
Both teams started the first inning with a leadoff single and a sacrifice bunt before scoring a run.
The Rangers had the bases loaded in the fourth after Lofton was intentionally walked, but first baseman Kevin Millar made a diving stab of Ramon Vazquez’s liner before All-Star shortstop Michael Young grounded out.
Baltimore had the bases loaded again in the eighth after reliever C.J. Wilson allowed a hit and a walk around an error before Francisco took over.
Melvin Mora, out of Baltimore’s starting lineup for the seventh straight game because of a bruised left instep, flew out as a pinch hitter in the seventh. … SS Luis Hernandez made his major league debut for Baltimore, coming in the game in the seventh inning after Mora pinch-hit for starting SS Brandon Fahey. … The intentional walk issued to Lofton was the first for a Ranger since Mark Teixeira was given a free pass May 29 at Oakland. In that span of 36 games, every other major league team had at least four batters intentionally walked.