Kinsler starts with homer, then walks off
Rangers avoid sweep, keep ahead of Seattle in AL West
ARLINGTON -- Ian Kinsler started Sunday's game with a home run. It's fitting he ended it with one, too."What a win," manager Ron Washington said of his team's 5-3 walk-off win on Sunday against the Twins at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. "They never quit, and tonight was an example of it. It was great. We needed it." Kinsler hit the second pitch he saw from Twins starter Francisco Liriano over the left-center wall to put the Rangers ahead, 1-0, in the first inning.
The slugging second baseman finished the game 12 innings later. The Twins brought in former Ranger R.A. Dickey, who has since added a knuckleball to his repertoire. Kinsler swung hard at several pitches before connecting on his game-winning shot."It was a fastball that he tried to get by me," Kinsler said. "He had a good fastball before. He's tough with that knuckleball floating in there. If I was surprised, I wouldn't have hit it over." Kinsler became the first player in Rangers history to hit a leadoff home run and walk-off home run in the same game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Kinsler was also just the third Major League player to do so since 1969, following Darin Erstad for the Angels (June 25, 2000) and Reed Johnson for the Blue Jays (June 15, 2003). That was his first career walk-off home run and the fourth by a Ranger this season. Hank Blalock was the last to accomplish the feat, on July 1 against the Angels. Kinsler's home run in the first was his 11th career leadoff home run, which advances his club record. It also tied him with David Dellucci for the club record with six leadoff home runs in one season. Dellucci set his mark in 2005. Kinsler's six also lead the Major Leagues in that category. "Ultimately the pitch rests in my hand, and I threw the wrong pitch," Dickey said. "That's all there really is to say about this one. I cost us this one, no doubt about it." Liriano settled down to retire 11 of the following 12 hitters after Kinsler's leadoff blast, and it seemed a struggling Rangers offense was once again going to be held dormant. Marlon Byrd singled to lead off the fifth, and David Murphy followed that with a walk. That brought up Jarrod Saltalamacchia, he of no Major League sacrifice bunts. "It was a situation where we needed to score a run," Washington said. "I asked him if he could do one, and he said, 'Sure, skip.'" Saltalamacchia converted, and Byrd later scored on a wild pitch to bring the Rangers within a run. Saltalamacchia found himself in the same situation two innings later -- Byrd and Murphy on first and second with no outs. He converted his second Major League sacrifice bunt, which allowed Byrd to score on a sacrifice fly by Elvis Andrus to tie the game at 3-3. The catcher became the fifth Rangers batter to have multiple sacrifices in a game at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, the latest since Omar Vizquel. In the fourth inning, Andruw Jones clubbed a long fly to left field, which was originally ruled a home run. After a replay review, Jones' home run was ruled a foul ball. "Yeah, I know it was foul," he said afterward. "I know I missed it. That's why I didn't run." Jones stayed in the box after hitting the ball and didn't start running until it was signaled a home run. "When he hit the ball, he got underneath it," Washington said. "I could feel the wind gushing in my face." Derek Holland didn't make it through the fifth inning for only the second time as a starter this season. He pitched two scoreless innings before allowing three runs over the next two. Holland has allowed home runs in seven of his eight starts this season, and has allowed 32 runs -- 16 of which have come via home run -- on the season. Holland loaded the bases with one out the fourth inning, allowing a sacrifice fly and an RBI single, which allowed the Twins to go ahead, 3-1. "In the first two innings, he was mixing his pitches very well," Washington said. "Then he didn't catch the ground ball. He was erratic after that. When he left, we were in the ballgame." The bullpen kept the Rangers in the game, combining to allow just two hits over eight scoreless frames, which lowered its ERA over the last 13 games to 1.81. Doug Mathis relieved Holland and went the next two innings. Dustin Nippert finished the game with two innings to earn his first victory of the season. "The bullpen came in and they continued to grind tonight," Washington said. "Mathis saved us. Nippert saved us. Nippert was on fumes. He was the last guy standing." Closer Frank Francisco was sick, leaving him unavailable. Jason Grilli and Jason Jennings also were not utilized, but both pitched Saturday. The win keeps the Rangers three behind the Angels in the American League West. "It's nice to get the win," Kinsler said. "And we get momentum going into the Boston series."
Daniel Paulling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.