ARLINGTON, Texas - The long ball continues to be Texas' best friend, as the Rangers clubbed two more homers in Monday night's 5-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays before 27,355 fans at Rangers Ballpark.
The Rangers improved to 5-2 by taking the opener of the three-game series between clubs that faced each other in both the 2010 and 2011 ALDS. The Rays, playing their first road game, dropped to 3-4.
Texas has now hit eight home runs in the last three games after opening the season with just two homers through four games. The Rangers' power surge coincided with another sluggish showing from Tampa Bay, which found some life late the day after being shut out 13-0 by Cleveland.
Texas starter Alexi Ogando didn't have his best stuff, exiting after 89 pitchers with one out in the sixth and two runners on. Left-handed reliever Joe Ortiz got out of the jam, keeping Texas' 3-1 lead intact.
The Rangers bullpen ran into trouble in the eighth and ninth but held on to help Ogando improve to 2-0. Texas closer Joe Nathan followed three relievers, allowing one run in the final inning to nail down the win and career save 300.
Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson (0-1) took the loss, giving up three runs on five hits in five innings. He walked three and struck out one during his 98-pitch stint.
The Rangers pulled ahead 3-1 on back-to-back solo home runs to right in the fourth with two out. A.J. Pierzynski hit his first in a Texas uniform, while Mitch Moreland followed up with a blast over the Rangers bullpen. It marked the first time Texas had home runs in successive at-bats this season.
Elvis Andrus provided the Rangers with a pair of insurance runs thanks to a two-run, two-out single in the seventh off Rays reliever Kyle Farnsworth.
Tampa Bay took advantage of a botched potential double play ball to tie the game 1-1 in the second. Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce got on to open the inning before Yunel Escobar hit a sharp grounder to short.
Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler got the out at second, but his throw to first was wide and short. Moreland couldn't handle the short hop and Longoria scored.
The Rangers struck in the bottom of the first to take a 1-0 lead. With two outs, Adrian Beltre's blooper fell under the glove of diving leftfielder Sam Fuld. Lance Berkman, who drew the second of Hellickson's two walks in the inning, motored around from first to score.
NOTES: The Rangers and Rays pulled off a trade going into the series, as catcher Robinson Chirinos was dealt from Tampa Bay to Texas for a player to be named later or cash considerations. To make room on the 40-man roster for Chirinos, the club has designated left-handed pitcher Jeff Beliveau for assignment. Chirinos has been optioned to Triple-A Round Rock. Chirinos, 28, was designated for assignment on March 31 when the Rays set their Opening Day roster. He did not play in 2012 after the catcher suffered a concussion in Spring Training when a foul tip struck his mask. ... Texas outfielder Julio Bourbon, out of minor league options, will likely be designated for assignment Tuesday when pitcher Nick Tepesch is called up from Triple-A to start. The Rangers will have 10 days to outright, release or trade the 27-year-old Bourbon once they designate him for assignment. ... Hellickson turned 26 Monday.