Rangers spin second straight shutout
Three hurlers combine to down Dodgers in Interleague Play
ARLINGTON -- A Rangers team that has been living by the credo of pitching and defense took things to another level on Friday night in Arlington, defying yet again those forecasting a collapse for Texas' run prevention.
Vicente Padilla, Jason Jennings and Jason Grilli combined on an eight-hit shutout as the Rangers dominated baseball's best team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, with a 6-0 blanking at a sweltering Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. This latest blanking came a day after Kevin Millwood and two relievers beat Toronto, 1-0, giving the Rangers their first back-to-back home shutouts in 28 years.
The pitcher who finished off those back-to-back shutouts in 1981 was in the ballpark Friday night. Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt combined with Danny Darwin for consecutive shutouts on April 29-30, 1981, at old Arlington Stadium.
Honeycutt and a Dodgers team that came in with the best record in baseball got a glimpse of a Rangers squad that appears to be up to every challenge thrown its way this season.
After all, the Rangers produced these back-to-back shutouts facing their first home sweep Thursday against Toronto and against a Dodgers team that came into to Arlington 19 games over .500. The Rangers got back to 10 games over .500, matching their high-water mark of the season.
"It all starts with pitching and defense," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We made more great plays out there. We made pitches. They had a lot of opportunities."
In a way, it was an unlikely shutout when you consider Padilla needed 108 pitches to get through five innings. Padilla needed 44 pitches to get through the first two innings. He threw 71 strikeouts, 39 of them foul balls, as the Dodgers grinded out at-bats.
"They worked him pretty good, but he was a warrior out there," Washington said.
"They were making me throw a lot more [pitches]," Padilla said.
Padilla stranded two runners in the first. The Dodgers loaded the bases in the third, but first baseman James Loney flew out to left to end the threat.
The Dodgers again put two runners on in the fifth, but Chris Davis made a brilliant diving stop to his right for the second out and Padilla threw a looping curveball that Casey Blake swung through for the third out. That was the last pitch for Padilla.
"We thought about putting him back out there for the sixth," Washington said, "but we decided not to."
Don't underscore what the bullpen did, and don't forget this is a relief corps still without Frank Francisco, who was upbeat after Friday's long-toss session, even though it might not be enough of a good feeling for him to avoid the disabled list.
Jennings matched his and the team's longest outing with three innings of relief. He threw 47 pitches. Grilli worked around a walk and a single in the ninth.
Jennings, who has become a valuable commodity, was able to get into a starter's mode, something he's more than used to, and he pitched his way out of an eighth inning in which he allowed two hits.
"I'm feeling more comfortable," Jennings said. "The first inning has always been tough for me, even as a starter."
The Rangers, struggling to score runs without disabled slugger Josh Hamilton, got a spark from an unlikely source Friday.
Backup catcher Taylor Teagarden had two doubles, one that led to the Rangers' first run, and another that drove in two runs in the sixth inning to give Texas a 5-0 lead.
The Rangers had averaged just over three runs a game since Hamilton went on the DL on June 2. And they had scored just four runs in three games against the Blue Jays earlier in the week.
Teagarden, who last played on Sunday, led off the bottom of the third with a double and scored on an error by Loney. Michael Young snapped an 0-for-17 stretch, delivering a run-scoring single later in the inning for a two-run lead.
Hank Blalock had a solo home run in the sixth, his 13th of the year. Later, Teagarden came through with a two-out double that scored David Murphy and Marlon Byrd.
"Right now I'm just trying to do what I can do with my role," Teagarden said. The Rangers go for their third straight shutout Saturday, and they'll have to do it without Francisco, who said he will have the day off, making it seem increasingly probable that he will go on the 15-day disabled list since the Rangers can make it retroactive to June 3.
"I'm feeling good," Francisco said.
Something that can be said for the entire Rangers pitching staff after Friday night.
Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.