video thumbnail

BAL@TEX: Hunter induces key double play in seventh

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers, in their league-wide search for relief help, asked about Orioles right-handed setup man Jim Johnson and were told he is not available.

The Rangers have found that to be the case on a number of pitchers they have inquired about, while in other cases, they have found the asking price to be too steep. So the Rangers talk about solving their bullpen problems internally, and on Tuesday night they got an indication that Tommy Hunter could be a viable solution.

That he was the winner and Johnson ended up getting the loss only added some irony when the Rangers rallied for a 4-2 victory over the Orioles at the Ballpark in Arlington. The Rangers scored three in the bottom of the seventh off Johnson after Hunter put a crucial zero on the scoreboard in the top of the inning.

"Hunter did a great job," Rangers manager Ron Washington said after his team won for the second straight night over the Orioles. "He did what we needed him to do out there."

Hunter was activated off the disabled list on Friday, and this was only his third Major League relief appearance. He won 13 games last year as a starter before a three-month stay on the disabled list coming out of Spring Training cost him his job in the rotation.

The Rangers don't see room in the rotation right now, but they do see a desperate need in the bullpen. The seventh inning has been especially troublesome for them. They had been outscored 41-32 in that inning over the course of the season before Tuesday night. Hunter would rather start, but this was what the Rangers need and what he is willing to do right now.

"Yeah, it's what you have to do if you want to stay in the big leagues," Hunter said. "We've got five starters with a pretty good track record, so to be a part of this team, that's my role. You still have to go out and pitch. If they give you the ball, you have to take advantage of the situation."

Hunter earned his first win out of the bullpen in relief of Rangers starter Matt Harrison, who escaped potential early disaster to hold the Orioles to two runs in six-plus innings. Both runs came on home runs as Harrison held the Orioles to 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. Mark Lowe followed Hunter with a scoreless eighth and Neftali Feliz earned his 17th save in the ninth.

Harrison began the night by allowing a leadoff home run to J.J. Hardy and singles to Nick Markakis and Adam Jones, all coming in the first four pitches. But he retired Vladimir Guerrero on a grounder to second, then struck out Mark Reynolds and Matt Wieters to end the inning.

"I knew it was going to be one of those nights," Harrison said. "The big key was getting out of that first inning. That definitely got my confidence up, and I just battled the whole game."

The Rangers spent much of the evening trying to figure out Orioles starter Mitch Atkins, a rookie with limited Major League experience, who had been called up from Triple-A to make this start. He flummoxed the Rangers with five scoreless innings and took a 2-0 lead into the sixth before giving up a one-out single to Josh Hamilton and a pair of two-out hits to Michael Young and Nelson Cruz that scored Hamilton.

Harrison went back out for the seventh but gave up a leadoff single to Markakis. That's when Washington went to the bullpen for Hunter.

"I wanted a right-hander in there and felt Tommy was the guy," Washington said.

Hunter got Jones to hit a weak grounder to the left side and shortstop Elvis Andrus got the force at second. Guerrero then hit a hard grounder right at Ian Kinsler and he combined with Andrus -- making an acrobatic leap over Jones sliding in -- to turn an inning-ending double play.

"I was just thinking ... don't let them score, get the ground ball, get the double play," Hunter said.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter then brought in Johnson, who has developed into one of the premier setup relievers in the league. He was 5-1 with a 2.37 ERA coming into the game, but the Rangers were able to score three off him. Johnson got himself into trouble by walking Yorvit Torrealba. Endy Chavez sacrificed Torrealba to second, and he went to third when Kinsler grounded out.

Johnson then walked Andrus, bringing up Hamilton, who lined a single to left field that Orioles outfielder Nolan Reimold grabbed on the short hop. Torrealba scored easily and Andrus raced to third. Reimold's throw bounced in, hit Andrus as he slid head first and caromed over toward the Orioles' dugout. Andrus sprinted home for the go-ahead run.

"I was running on the pitch and as soon as I saw it hit, I thought [Reimold] was going to have to dive," Andrus said. "If it got past him, I was thinking home plate."

Hamilton ended up at second and scored on a double by Adrian Beltre.

"I didn't make any good pitches, obviously," Johnson said. "Walked two guys on seven pitches, which is obviously not what I normally do. I didn't make any pitches to get out of there. I had a chance. Hamilton beat me there and that's probably not the guy you want to have beat you."

The Orioles needed a shutdown inning, the kind that Hunter gave the Rangers. Comments