Blalock's blast lifts Rangers over Halos
Feldman sharp as Texas trims a game off division deficit
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers five-game losing streak is over.They finally scored a run, they finally grabbed a lead and they were able to hold on at the end. Barely. "Wow!" said closer Frank Francisco, breathing a sigh of relief after he had taken his team to the brink and then pulled them through to preserve a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim before a sellout crowd at the Ballpark in Arlington on Saturday. "It was great," Francisco said. "After all we've been through ... that's what we needed." One pitch away from a blown save, Francisco pulled himself together in time to earn his 23rd save of the season and give Scott Feldman his 17th win of the season. Feldman is now 17-5 with a 3.62 ERA with three starts left in the season. But this might have been his biggest win, pitching in front of 46,696 people and being the pitcher who snapped the Rangers losing streak. "I never thought about stopping the five-game losing streak," Feldman said. "I just thought about pitching good. We all know we have a good team. We went through a little funk, but hopefully, this will get us a little momentum going forward." The Rangers are now 6 1/2 games behind the Angels in the American League West with their 81st victory, guaranteeing them that they will not have their ninth losing season in 10 years. "We fought like warriors," manager Ron Washington said. "We played as well tonight as we did last night. We just won tonight. We know we can play good baseball. We just went flat. But the last two nights, we played a high level of baseball. That's what it's going to take." The Rangers came into this game having scored just one run in their previous five games, but a 25-inning scoreless streak came to an end in the third after Nelson Cruz walked and stole second against Angels starter Jered Weaver. Chris Davis followed with a slow wobbly grounder toward shortstop Maicer Izturis, who tried to make a barehand grab and missed completely. The ball got past him and rolled out into left field, allowing Cruz to score. Davis reached second and was credited with a double. "I hit first base, and the crowd was going nuts," Davis said. "I looked up, and the ball was in the outfield. I'll take it. In my next at-bat, I flied out to the track in left-center." Davis' double gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead and left them three short of the club record of 28 consecutive scoreless innings set back in 1972. "I was so happy when we scored that run," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "We're in a bad way, but we're still giving it 100 percent." The Angels were able to get a couple of runs off Feldman to take a 2-1 lead, but Andrus had an RBI single in the fifth and Hank Blalock put the Rangers ahead with a home run off Weaver in the sixth. Blalock was getting a rare start at first base because Washington wanted to do something to shake up the lineup. It was Blalock's 24th home run of the season, but his first since Aug. 8. "All those young kids have been going out there and playing their hearts out, and those other pitchers have just been going through our lineup," Washington said. "I just felt we needed a veteran presence in there who doesn't get shaken by the big situation. That's what Hank can do. I felt he could catch one, and he did." Feldman came out after 6 2/3 innings and 92 pitches. He retired the last six hitters he faced, but with a one-run lead, Washington brought in Darren O'Day to face Juan Rivera with two outs in the seventh. Feldman had a look of surprise on his face when Washington walked out of the dugout. "We won the game so ..." Feldman said. "That's all that matters. I understand it's the time of year where you have to win. If Wash feels that's the right move, then it is the right move. It worked out ..." Barely. O'Day and C.J. Wilson got to the ninth, and Francisco took over. That's when it got hairy. After Vladimir Guerrero flied out, Torii Hunter singled to left. Kendry Morales hit a grounder right at Blalock at first, but he fumbled it for an error. "That's a play I've got to make," Blalock said. "That's a 3-6-3 double play that should end the game." Washington admitted he and bench coach Jackie Moore talked about replacing Blalock defensively by moving Davis over from third and putting in Vizquel. But he decided against it. "I trust Hank," Washington said. A double steal put runners on second and third, and Rivera was intentionally walked to load the bases. Francisco then threw three straight balls to Howie Kendrick, leaving him one pitch away from forcing in the tying run. "I was trying to hit my spots the whole time," Francisco said. "I missed a couple of times, then I threw some pitches for strikes. I got into situations that were ugly, but I didn't panic." Francisco came back with two strikes, then got Kendrick to hit a ground ball back up the middle. Andrus fielded it near second base, stepped on the back and threw to first for the game-ending double play. "A great effort by us," Blalock said. "That was as must of a win for us as we've had all year. It was nice to get that win."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.