Rangers' offense responds to steamroll Rays
Seven-run fourth inning provides key to victory in opener
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers fell behind by four runs in the top of the second against the team with the best road record in baseball.They needed an immediate response. They needed a weapon of retaliation before the Tampa Bay Rays put them away like they have so many other teams. Justin Smoak's two-run home run was the response the Rangers needed, and they followed it with a seven-run run rally in the fourth that carried them to a 9-6 victory on Friday at Rangers Ballpark. "That was a big blow for us," third baseman Michael Young said, after the Rangers won the first of a three-game series against the team with the best record in the Major Leagues. "That was huge right there," manager Ron Washington said. "They're up 4-0 and if we couldn't answer right there, the momentum would have stayed with them." Instead the Rangers were able to come back and get a win for starter C.J. Wilson, his first since beating the Royals on May 7. Wilson came into the game with the fifth-lowest run-support average in the American League, before the Rangers' offense went to work against Rays starter Wade Davis. "I'll take it," Wilson said. "It was awesome." Washington wasn't around to see the end. He was ejected by second-base umpire Chris Guccione in the bottom of the eighth inning, after Julio Borbon was thrown out trying to steal second base on a swipe tag by shortstop Reid Brignac. "From my angle, [Brignac] swung and missed," Washington said. "[Guccione] told me he tagged him. He probably did. He said something I didn't like and I said something he didn't like and that was it. But he probably got it right." Josh Hamilton, who had a monster night himself, set up Smoak's home run with a one-out double to right. David Murphy grounded out on a great diving stop by Tampa Bay second baseman Ben Zobrist, bringing up Smoak with a runner on third and two down. The count went 1-1, before Davis threw a high fastball. Smoak crushed it, driving it high and deep over the right-field wall. "Fortunately I got good wood on it and he just left it up," Smoak said. "Yeah, anything to get this team going. If that was the spark, then it's good to get this team going." Hamilton also started the fourth inning with his 10th home run of the season, making it 4-3. After Murphy flied out, Smoak singled, Max Ramirez was hit by a pitch and Borbon singled to center to load the bases. Elvis Andrus' single to center tied the score and Young's two-run single gave the Rangers a 6-4 lead. "You make mistakes to those guys, and they're going to get you," Davis said. "Especially a couple of those guys, and they did." Davis was replaced by Andy Sonnanstine, who immediately hit Ian Kinsler with a pitch. That brought up Vladimir Guerrero, who was back in the lineup after missing two games with a bruised and swollen left eye. Guerrero had grounded out in his first two at-bats, but, showing he could see just fine, blasted one off Sonnanstine to deep left-center just beyond the reach of left fielder Carl Crawford. Three runs scored, although Guerrero was thrown out by Crawford trying to go to third on the relay home. "I told you ... I feel good," Guerrero said. "I don't have a problem with my eye. I thank God I was able to hit a double and clear the bases." The Rangers finished the night with 13 hits, including three by Smoak. The rookie first baseman went 3-for-3 with a walk. He is 8-for-17 with two home runs, six walks and five RBIs in his last six games. "When you're hitting better you feel comfortable," Smoak said. "It's just one of those things where you have to stay relaxed. I've said it all along, but it's hard to do at this level and it's been something I've had to learn. You've got to let it happen, you can't make it happen. That's the biggest thing." The Rangers didn't score after the fourth. Wilson was gone after five and Texas used five relievers to get through to the end. Wilson did come back from the second inning with three scoreless, but left after loading the bases with a single and two walks in the sixth. "Mechanically I was off and on all night," Wilson said.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.