Catalanotto, Rangers walk off in style
Pinch-hitter delivers game-winning RBI in bottom of the ninth
ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Ron Washington isn't about to describe this as a roll.The Rangers have won five out of seven and Washington said they need to win 10 out of something before they consider it a roll. "We have five more to go," Washington said. But this beats the alternative that the Rangers have been experiencing for much of the season, and they at least are starting to feel a heartbeat and a pulse after a 6-5 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Thursday afternoon. Frank Catalanotto delivered the game-winning hit with a walk-off single with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning. "We're all excited," Catalanotto said. "The guys are confident. This is the most confident I've seen in this clubhouse. When you win a walk-off game like this, it gets guys excited and hopefully this will get us going in the right direction." If nothing else, the Rangers are showing they can handle the National League Central. The Rangers are now 9-6 in Interleague Play this year, with one series left with the Houston Astros that starts Friday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. "Any way they can push us into the National League?" Washington said. "I wouldn't say we're on a hot streak but we're playing better baseball." On the other side of the stadium, Cubs manager Lou Piniella had to control his frustration after watching his team just miss two diving catches in the outfield and botch one rundown in letting the winning run score in the bottom of the ninth. "I think we all need to go to church and put more in the box," Piniella said. Kenny Lofton, pinch-hitting for Victor Diaz against right-hander Bobby Howry, led off with a line drive to left, where Alfonso Soriano went for the diving catch and actually had the ball in his glove. But he couldn't hold on long enough and Lofton was on with a single.
Adam Melhuse bunted him to second, then Brad Wilkerson hit a comebacker to the mound. Lofton got caught off second and Howry tried to run him back to the bag to keep Wilkerson from getting into scoring position. But Howry held on to the ball a split-second too long, and Lofton was able to dive under shortstop Cesar Izturis' tag, leaving the Rangers with runners at first and second."You have to figure out what they're going to do," Lofton said. "Once he ran me back to second base, I thought I'd go back and see if they could make a play. You have to see if you can catch the pitcher off guard, and I did." Washington then sent up Catalanotto for Travis Metcalf and he lined one down the right-field line. Cubs right fielder Angel Pagan gave chase and also went for the diving catch. But this time the ball ticked off his glove for a game-winning hit. For the second straight game, the day after Sammy Sosa's 600th home run, the Rangers were able to pour out of the dugout and show some excitement and emotion. "Last night was special, today was a good win, a hard-fought win," shortstop Michael Young said. "We've been able to battle in the late innings. Our problem has been scoring early, but we did that today and that allowed us to do that in the ninth inning." The Rangers won on Thursday even though they squandered a five-run lead. Diaz and Melhuse hit back-to-back home runs in the second, and Marlon Byrd hit a two-run single in the third to give the Rangers a 5-0 lead. But starter Vicente Padilla, who has been dealing with physical issues in his right elbow, couldn't get through the fifth. He started the inning by giving up five straight hits, and the Cubs cut the lead to 5-4. Willie Eyre bailed the Rangers out of that inning but a double by Soriano and a single by Derrek Lee tied the game in the sixth. Padilla continues to hit a road block in the fifth and sixth innings and has not pitched past the sixth since May 11 against the Angels. He has allowed 42 hits in 16 2/3 innings over his last four starts. This was the second time in three starts that he took a shutout into the fifth and couldn't get out of the inning. "I don't know if it's a durability issue," Washington said. "If he can make a couple of pitches, then he can get out of that inning and get back out there for the sixth." The Rangers continue to monitor the situation. But right now they have won five of seven and may be at least close to getting on a roll.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.