Young drives in win for Rangers
Shortstop knocks two-run single to break ninth-inning tie
CHICAGO -- The last time Michael Young came through like this, he won a trophy, a car and national recognition in a glorified exhibition game.This time, he won a game for his team in the middle of a pennant race that is only starting to percolate. Either way, no matter what is at stake, he's still one of the best, if not at the very top of the clutch-hitting list. As White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said after the game, "As soon as we walk that second hitter, I was telling [coach] Joey Cora we're in trouble." He was right. Young lined a two-out, two-run single in the top of the ninth inning to break a gripping 1-1 tie and give the Rangers a 3-1 victory over the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on Saturday. "Incredible," catcher Rod Barajas said. "It's amazing," outfielder Brad Wilkerson said. "He's unbelievable. He's probably the most clutch hitter I have ever played with." Young's single came off White Sox closer Bobby Jenks. Less than two weeks ago, they were teammates on the American League All-Star team. "Jenks is tough," Young said. "He is having a lot of success for a reason. But that's a good situation for me. I know if I drop it in there, two runs are going to score." Young did and the Rangers have now won four out of five. All three of the other American League West teams won on Saturday, so the Rangers remain a half-game behind the Oakland Athletics in the division. "This was a good win for us," Rangers manager Buck Showalter said. "That's why teams get to play in the fun part of August and September. They come in here against the best teams in baseball and play good baseball." Young wasn't the only one who had a big night. Kevin Mench doubled home the first run and started the winning rally by beating out an infield hit. Ian Kinsler also had a crucial walk in the ninth inning and a diving catch in the bottom of the inning to help closer Akinori Otsuka earn his 21st save. Otsuka was the fifth and final Rangers pitcher, and held the White Sox to one run on five hits. The Rangers have won 10 of their last 16 games because of a pitching staff that has weathered some offensive struggles by putting up a combined 3.60 ERA. "We're not playing our best baseball, but we're doing things fundamentally well," Wilkerson said. "We're getting bunts down, playing good defense for the most part and pitching well. Our bullpen has done a great job. You want to be able to win those kind of games." The Rangers won on a night in which starter John Koronka turned in a quite effective, but equally strange, performance. Basically, he threw 35 pitches in the first inning, and 27 more in the second, but still didn't let the White Sox score. The White Sox also fouled off 20 of the first 52 pitches he threw. Pitching coach Mark Connor wasn't sure if the White Sox were stealing signs or Koronka was tipping them off with his delivery. But after the first two frames, he sailed through the next four innings on just 38 pitches and didn't give up a run until Paul Konerko hit a homer in the sixth. "I came out after the first inning, found I had thrown 35 pitches and said, "'This is ridiculous,'" Koronka said. "I just started trying to be more aggressive. ... If I had to catch more of the plate, I just wanted to make sure I was down in the zone." Koronka left with the game tied, 1-1, and Ron Mahay kept it that way by striking out Scott Podsednik and getting Tadahito Iguchi to fly out to deep right field with a runner on third in the seventh. That was a crucial spot for the Rangers and the White Sox finished 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. "I thought we pitched well out of the bullpen," Showalter said. "But it shouldn't be forgotten that Koronka kept us in the game." The White Sox tried to win it with their closer on the mound in a tie game, but Mench beat out an infield single in the ninth and was bunted to second by Wilkerson. Rod Barajas grounded out and Gary Matthews Jr. was walked intentionally, bringing up Ian Kinsler. Jenks got ahead, 1-2, but Kinsler then held off three straight sliders away to draw a walk. "It's a very tough situation," Kinsler said. "The guy is throwing close to 100. You just have to have tough at-bats and battle. It makes it easier to be patient when you know who's up there behind you." That would be the player who has the highest batting average with runners in scoring position and two outs (minimum 50 at-bats) since the start of the 2004 season. The average got higher when Young lined an 0-1 single to right. "I just know I like to be in those situations, with a chance to win the game," Young said. "I do feel confident in those situations. I don't feel any undue pressure. I'm confident in my at-bats. It's just a matter of executing."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.