Back-to-back homers pace Rangers' win
Offense goes deep four times to take opener in Chicago
CHICAGO -- Gary Matthews Jr. didn't play on Friday night because of sore groin muscle, and his teammates were on him with the Wally Pipp treatment afterwards.Pipp was the old Yankees first baseman who had a headache one day, sat out a game and immediately lost his job forever to Lou Gehrig. This might be the only time that Jerry Hairston Jr. is compared with a Hall of Fame first baseman, but one terrific defensive play did get his teammates to start joking around with Matthews after the game. "They were telling him to take another day off," Rangers manager Buck Showalter said. "I'm not in on that." Matthews will likely be back in center field on Saturday, but Hairston's throw, nailing A.J. Pierzynski trying to score to end the fourth inning, certainly proved to be crucial as the Rangers pulled away to a 10-3 victory over Mark Buehrle and the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. "A huge play for us," winning pitcher Ron Mahay said after the Rangers had won for the third time in four games and moved to within a half-game of the first-place Oakland Athletics. "If Jerry doesn't make that throw, we might be in a whole different situation," said Showalter, who had to use four relievers for 5 1/3 innings to nail down the victory. Four relievers proved superior to White Sox starter Mark Buehrle, who once had a seven-game winning streak against the Rangers but is now 1-3 with a 5.28 ERA in his last four starts against them. "When you face a guy a lot, and we seem to get Buehrle every time we play the White Sox, you have a better idea of what to expect and can have a better plan at the plate," first baseman Mark Teixeira said. John Wasdin started for the Rangers and was given a 5-1 lead in the third when Michael Young hit a three-run home run off Buehrle and Teixeira followed that with a blast of his own into the center-field seats. It was the first time both Young and Teixeira have hit a home run in the same game this year; they did it four times in 2005. But Wasdin, who seemed to be battling with all he had almost hitter-to-hitter, couldn't stay around long enough to get the victory. Instead, the White Sox seemed perilously close to wiping out the Rangers lead in the fourth before Hairston stepped up. Jermaine Dye started the inning with a double and scored on a single by Pierzynski. Joe Crede also singled, putting runners on first and second. Wasdin came back to get Juan Uribe on a liner to left and struck out Brian Anderson. But with Podsednik, a left-handed hitter, coming up, Showalter went to Mahay. Right behind were the White Sox best: Tadahito Iguchi, Jim Thome and Paul Konerko. "We didn't want to let that get away from us right there," Showalter said. Podsednik jumped on Mahay's first pitch, lining it into center field in front of Hairston, who was coming in hard. "I thought I might have a chance to dive but if I dive and miss, at least two runs score, and with the way Podsednik runs, he may be at second or even third," Hairston said. He short-hopped the ball instead, which isn't exactly an easy play either. With two outs, White Sox third base coach Joey Cora sent Pierzynski. Hairston came up smoothly with ball, enabling him to launch a throw that beat the runner in plenty of time to kill the rally. "Being an infielder helps with the short hops," Hairston said. "I definitely was trying to smother, but I was able to field it cleanly, get my body in position and let it go." That play seemed to smother the White Sox for good. They had just one run on three hits the rest of the way against Mahay, Wes Littleton, C.J. Wilson and Rick Bauer. Rangers relievers have now allowed just four earned runs over their last 24 2/3 innings, lowering their season ERA to 3.72. Bauer pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings without a hit to pick up his second save of the season and has a 1.40 ERA in his last 16 games. Mahay earned his first victory since Sept. 11, 2004, the year the Rangers had the best bullpen in the league on their way to winning 89 games. "I didn't even know I had the win," Mahay said afterward. "I just found out. I just go out there and hold them, help out whoever is starting. But that was a good effort by the 'pen. It kind of reflects our '04 season. That's a good sign." Littleton did give up a sixth-inning home run to Crede, but the Rangers struck for four in the eighth as Kevin Mench hit a three-run home run. Brad Wilkerson also homered in the ninth to give the Rangers four for the night.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.