Andrus' incredible play highlights win
Shortstop saves game for Millwood with diving stop in ninth
SEATTLE -- This one will be remembered for the dazzling play that rookie shortstop Elvis Andrus made in the ninth inning.With one out in a one-run game, Andrus made a diving stop deep in the hole on Kenji Johjima's grounder, then made a strong throw from one knee on the outfield grass to first for the out. "An incredible play," third baseman Michael Young said after the Rangers had held on for a 6-5 victory over the Mariners at Safeco Field on Monday night. "It saved the game for us," manager Ron Washington added. Possibly so, considering Frank Francisco followed that by giving up a single to Franklin Gutierrez and a walk to Yuniesky Betancourt before getting Ichiro Suzuki on a flyout to end the game. The Mariners weren't happy that Johjima appeared to beat Andrus' tremendous throw only to have first-base umpire Paul Emmel call him out. "I thought he was safe," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. "That was the bottom line." But when it was over, Andrus' highlight play was just one of many factors that allowed the Rangers to prevail in a battle of No. 1 starters and hand Felix Hernandez his first loss of the season. Rangers starter Kevin Millwood -- perfect for four innings, then just good enough for the next 3 1/3 -- pitched well enough to earn his third victory of the season. Francisco picked up his league-leading eighth save and set a club record with his 12th consecutive scoreless appearance. Chris Davis, after adding two more strikeouts to his league-leading total, provided the game-winning RBI with a two-run home run in the sixth. The Rangers have now won seven of their last 10 and are one game over .500 for the first time since the fifth game of the season. "It was just a good team win," Young said. "Obviously, it was a big game for both teams. Hernandez had great stuff, off-the-chart stuff. But Milly battled through it and gave us a huge effort as he always does. The bullpen did a good job and we got some timely hits off Felix." Millwood, who retired the first 12 hitters he faced, lasted 7 1/3 innings and earned his first victory over the Mariners since June 23, 2007. He was 0-5 with a 6.07 ERA in five starts since then. Hernandez lost to the Rangers for the ninth time in 17 career starts. "The star of that game was Millwood, who was as good as anybody I have seen this year," Wakamatsu said. "He was clearly unhittable, topped out at 93 and kept our hitters off balance." Hernandez was excellent for three innings, but then the Rangers got to him with two runs in the fourth on a single by Young, an RBI double by Hank Blalock and a single by Marlon Byrd. Young added a two-run home run in the fifth, his seventh of the year. Last season, he didn't hit his seventh home run until the 81st game of the season. That gave the Rangers a 4-0 lead. Then Millwood faltered. After being outstanding through the first four frames, he needed only five batters to lose the lead in the fifth. Russell Branyan led off the inning with a home run and Gutierrez tied it with a three-run home run with one out. "The first four innings were really good," Millwood said. "I threw the ball where I wanted to and got quick outs. After that, I lost my command. My command wasn't there, and I left some balls up in the zone. When my command was so good for four innings, to lose it so quickly was weird." Hernandez was having his own troubles, but he was having no problems with Davis early. Hernandez struck him out twice on just three pitches in each of his first two at-bats. Davis was able to strike back when he came up with one on and one out in the sixth. Hernandez, who had been brutalizing Davis with sliders all night, started off with a couple of fastballs. One missed the strike zone and Davis swung and missed at the other. Hernandez then came back with a slider and Davis didn't miss, hitting it into the right-field seats. "After a couple of fastballs, I figured a breaking ball was due before long," Davis said. "He left a breaking ball over the plate and I was finally able to get a hold of it. The first two at-bats, I kept chasing pitches out of the zone." Millwood gave up a leadoff double to Mike Sweeney in the sixth, but was saved by a terrific play from Young at third. Adrian Beltre smacked a hard grounder toward the hole, but Young made a diving stop to his left and got the out at third. The play was almost as good as the one Andrus made in the ninth, and Millwood got Jose Lopez to end the threat. "I thought it was huge," Millwood said. "We made a couple of defensive plays that helped a lot. Besides me, I thought our game was solid all the way around." Wakamatsu threw Millwood into the equation. Andrus' breath-taking play was only the final act.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.