Vazquez hero in Rangers' walk-off win
Solo shot in 10th inning caps game; Hamilton plates four runs
ARLINGTON -- When the 13-12 game was over, Rangers manager Ron Washington walked into the interview room, sat down and broke into a big smile."What a game," Washington said. "I guess you all didn't think we had a chance when [Erik] Bedard got out to that 5-0 lead. Well, we fooled you and Bedard." The Rangers fooled many people, including the vast majority of the 18,509 fans who were long gone by the time this one came to an end four hours and nine minutes later. Only those who stayed through the entire game were able to experience the wide range of roller-coaster emotions that the Rangers had to endure. The final emotion though was pure elation. Ramon Vazquez crushed a 1-0 fastball from Mariners reliever Brandon Morrow with one out in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Rangers the victory on Monday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Vazquez's home run put an end to a game in which the Rangers trailed 5-0 before they ever came to bat, but still led 10-6 with six outs to go. They were also one pitch away from a 12-9 victory when Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima hit a three-run homer on an 0-2 pitch off of closer C.J. Wilson with two out in the top of the ninth inning. That was the blast that ultimately sent the game into extra innings, but it was Vazquez's second home run of the season that sent the Rangers home with their 12th victory in their last 17 games. "Fantastic," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "We're an emotional team and we thrive off emotions. When we got down, 5-0, everybody in that dugout still felt we could come back and win that game. Obviously, with Bedard on the mound, we had to battle, but we did it." They did so with the help of 13 walks issued by Mariners pitchers and a big two-out error by Seattle second baseman Jose Lopez that led to four crucial unearned runs for the Rangers in the bottom of the seventh. But the Rangers also had 14 hits, including home runs by Josh Hamilton, Milton Bradley and, finally, Vazquez. "Awesome," catcher Gerald Laird said. "We're on a roll. We feel like we're playing great baseball and are tough to beat. Sometimes you win good, sometimes you win ugly. This was an ugly win but it's all about W's." Morrow was the Mariners' sixth pitcher on the night and easily their best despite taking the loss. He had taken over in the bottom of the ninth and struck out four straight hitters before Vazquez came up. "He was coming right at people," Vazquez said. "I got a good pitch to hit, the pitch I was looking for. I was looking for a fastball down. I was just hoping to lay off the breaking ball. He's a guy you don't want to hit his breaking ball. I wanted to get a fastball and get the head off the bat on it." Vazquez did that and drove it into the right-field seats on a line to set off a big-time celebration at home plate. "That's a great feeling," Vazquez said. "That's all the power I had." The happiest guy in the Rangers celebration may have been rookie right-hander Doug Mathis, who picked up his first victory in his Major League debut. Mathis took over in the 10th after Joaquin Benoit and Wilson had combined to allow six runs in the eighth and ninth innings to erase the Rangers 10-6 and 12-8 leads. Mathis settled things down, though, by retiring three straight hitters and was rewarded when Vazquez hit his home run. "This is the coolest thing I've ever experienced," Mathis said. Rangers starter Vicente Padilla brought a three-game winning streak into the game, but fell behind, 5-0, in the first inning because of some sloppy defense. Errors by Vazquez at third and Hamilton in center, and a balk by Padilla led to three unearned runs and five runs overall. That painted a bleak picture for the Rangers, considering they were going up against a left-hander who had a career 2.44 ERA in eight starts against them. But they chipped away quickly -- a double by Kinsler and a single by Michael Young in the first, a sacrifice fly by German Duran in the second and four more runs in the third. "I'm surprised we came back so quickly," said Padilla, who managed to give the Rangers five-plus innings. "I know we're hitting good and scoring a lot of runs, but I didn't think it would be so quickly." Home runs by Hamilton and Bradley were big, but so were a pair of singles by first basemam Chris Shelton in both the second and the third innings. By the time the third inning was over, the Rangers led, 6-5, and Bedard was gone. "We had some good at-bats against him and kept working him," Washington said. "Everybody contributed." The Mariners tied it in the sixth on doubles by Jeff Clement and Yuniesky Betancourt. But the Rangers broke through with four in the seventh, It was still tied at 6 when Young batted with two outs and the bases loaded, and he hit a routine grounder to Lopez at second. But Lopez fumbled it for an error, keeping the inning alive and Hamilton and Frank Catalanotto followed with run-scoring singles to give the Rangers a 10-6 lead. They were up, 12-8, going into the ninth before the Mariners scored four off Wilson, who has now allowed six runs in his last two outings. "He's been good up to this point," Washington said. "I don't think there's a closer out there that hasn't blown one. He just blew one tonight. What are you going to do? We had out two best guys [Benoit and Wilson] out there. You just have to tip your cap to them. But you have to tip your cap to us because we continued to fight. We didn't quit."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.