Bottom of order comes up big
Last three hitters deliver as Rangers mount comeback for win
ARLINGTON -- With only 13,536 in attendance, Monday's game between the Rangers and Tigers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington certainly had the feel of a mid-September game between a pair of non-playoff-bound clubs."When I got to the ballpark and looked around at the fans, I said to myself, 'These must be the die-hards,'" manager Ron Washington said. That feeling was accentuated by a Rangers starting lineup that featured seven players who'd spent some time this season at Triple-A Oklahoma, as well as starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy and three of the five pitchers who would relieve him. But this unlikely array of Rangers combined to pull off an eighth-inning comeback in an 11-8 victory. While it was the veterans who came through late, it was the youngsters who kept the Rangers in the game early. "The bottom of that order is producing," Washington said. "It was just awesome." The bottom third of the Rangers' order Monday consisted of Max Ramirez, Travis Metcalf and Taylor Teagarden, who were all staples in Oklahoma's lineup the second half of this season. They showed why against the Tigers. The Rangers capitalized on two Dontrelle Willis walks in the fourth when Nelson Cruz and Ramirez earned free passes. Metcalf came up next and walloped a two-out, three-run home run to left field, which brought the Rangers to within one, 4-3. Two innings later, Teagarden one-upped Metcalf with a grand slam that gave the Rangers a short-lived 7-5 lead. "I tell you what, he's been getting some big hits for us," Washington said. "He's doing a good job and I'm very happy for him -- especially when he comes in with a tag that he's not an offensive catcher." But a bit of controversy surrounded the grand slam. Two batters into the inning, Ramirez took an 0-1 pitch high and inside. The pitch deflected away from Ramirez as it passed him, but was not initially called a hit-by-pitch by home-plate umpire Eric Cooper. After a lengthy protest from Washington, Cooper appealed to first-base umpire Angel Hernandez while a mark appeared on Ramirez's arm that revealed he was actually hit by the Gary Glover offering. "[Cooper] said he couldn't see it, so I asked him to get help," Washington said. "The only reason I got the call was because Max's arm welted up on him. The longer he stood up there, the redder it got. I'm just glad they got the call right." Tigers manager Jim Leyland was ejected for arguing with Cooper after Ramirez was awarded first base, but conceded after the game that it was ultimately the correct call. "The ball, it hit the guy," Leyland said. "I'm upset that the umpire was blocked out and didn't make a call faster. He should have checked right away, but he looked at it three times. But the call was right." Following a Metcalf walk that loaded the bases, Teagarden sent a low fastball over the center-field wall. "It was a big moment for us," Teagarden said. "It shifted the momentum for us." In addition, the grand slam earned a Rangers fan $25,000 in a home run promotion, to which Teagarden joked: "She owes me a thousand bucks." While Ramirez's swollen forearm paid dividends for the Rangers, a swollen finger put the Rangers in a bit of a bind in the first inning. On the 12th anniversary of the night the Rangers retired Nolan Ryan's No. 34 in honor of the man who hurled 5,386 innings in a 27-year career, McCarthy threw a grand total of seven pitches before exiting with a strained flexor tendon in his right middle finger. "It didn't happen when I threw it," McCarthy said. "It happened when I was bringing my arm up. I knew something was wrong. It started to swell up." With that, Washington was forced to bring in Luis Mendoza for the next 2 1/3 innings, Josh Rupe for 2 2/3 innings, Wes Littleton for two-thirds of an inning, Jamey Wright for 1 1/3 innings and Frank Francisco for the final 1 1/3 innings to earn the victory. "It doesn't really change the plan if the guys who come in get the outs for you," Washington said. "A lot of times you lay out your plan and it just doesn't work out like that." Rupe and Littleton were roughed up, but the Rangers still entered the bottom of the eighth within one and again Teagarden came through -- although not as planned. Ramirez and Metcalf reached to lead off the inning and Ramirez was pinch-run for by Brandon Boggs. So, with no outs, Teagarden tried to sacrifice them up a base. Teagarden fouled and missed his bunt attempts, though, and was forced to swing away. "For whatever reason, I didn't get it down and then I just wanted to square something up," Teagarden said. That's just what he did, doubling to left-center field to bring Boggs home. "I haven't really bunted all year," Teagarden said. "I didn't get it down so I tried to pick us up in another way." Later in the inning, Michael Young put the Rangers up for good, driving Teagarden home with a two-out single before Marlon Byrd tacked on a two-run triple. "Mike got us the biggest hit of the night," Washington said.
Shawn Shroyer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.