It was another ugly performance for the Texas Rangers, but was also another game in the win column. The positive was that the offense continued to roll and put up numbers like the Rangers' offense should in a Cracker Jack box like Fenway, but on the bad side Matt Harrison turned in another poor start for the Rangers' rotation and couldn't make it out of the fifth inning.
Harrison had won his most recent outing against the Royals when he worked 6 2/3 and only allowed two runs. However he had struggled in his two outings prior to that and Wednesday afternoon was similar to those outings.
On Wednesday, Harrison allowed two runs in the first inning, but then settled down for scoreless innings in the second, third and fourth. The fifth, however, was when things started to fall apart as Harrison allowed a leadoff triple to Carl Crawford, but then got Dustin Pedroia to ground out. That was followed by an Adrian Gonzalez double and a Cody Ross fly out. It was looking like Harrison might be able to limit the damage to just a run, but he walked Will Middlebrooks and Ryan Larnway to load the bases. That would be all for Harrison and Ron Washington turned to Roy Oswalt for the first time since his controversial outing against the Royals when he refused to take the ball for a third inning of work.
Much has been made about Oswalt refusing to take the ball for that third inning of work in Kansas City, but since moving to the bullpen Oswalt has been effective and this was another opportunity for him to prove his value to the Rangers and get him closer to another opportunity in the starting rotation.
Oswalt took the ball from Washington and struck out Kelly Shoppach although Adrian Gonzalez did score from third on a wild pitch during the at bat. Oswalt would then strike out the first two batters of the sixth inning and get Carl Crawford to groundout. He would come back out for the seventh inning, but that is when things once again got ugly. He gave up a single to Pedroia, then a double to Gonzalez that would score Pedroia and then walked Cody Ross which was followed by a three-run homer from Will Middlebrooks. Middlebrooks homer tied the game up at nine and was the end of the day for Oswalt.
Oswalt turned things over to Alexi Ogando who worked two perfect innings while the Rangers' bats continued to take advantage of hitter friendly Fenway Park. The Rangers had 11 hits on the day with both Elvis Andrus and Josh Hamilton having three-hit games. Hamilton continues to look better at the plate and finished the game a double shy of the cycle, including a two-run homer in the fifth.
Andrus got the Rangers' rally going in the top of the ninth with a leadoff walk and then went to third on Hamilton's single. Andrus would score on Adrian Beltre's sacrifice fly and give the Rangers the go ahead run. It looked like the Rangers would add a few more in the top of the ninth when Nelson Cruz hit what seemed to be a two-run homer, but was called foul by the umpires and was not overturned by replay. Replay seemed to show it was fair, but it was apparently not enough to change the ruling. That would have been the second home run of the day for Cruz who had hit a solo shot in the seventh inning.
That was all the Rangers needed as Joe Nathan came on for the ninth to pick up his 23rd save of the season. While Hamilton and Andrus were important to the offense all day long, Mitch Moreland added a solo homer and Geovany Soto hit his first home run in a Rangers' uniform.
It was not the prettiest victory, but it got the job done. It would have been nice for Harrison and Oswalt to be more effective, but Fenway is not a pitcher's park and getting the victory is what really matters. The victory gave the Rangers the series victory and they will now have an off day on Thursday before welcoming the Detroit Tigers to Rangers' Ballpark in Arlington. As the Rangers head back to Arlington, the rotation continues to struggle, but the offense finally resembles the Rangers and is a great start to getting this team firing on all cylinders.
John Bowman is a lifelong baseball and Texas Rangers fan that loves to ponder the deeper aspects of the game. Some of his first baseball memories involve Arlington Stadium nachos, Charlie Hough's knuckleball, dirt on Pete Incaviglia's uniform and the voices of Mark Holtz and Eric Nadel as he fell asleep.