Six-run first carries Rangers past Red Sox
Hunter allows two runs in 6 2/3 innings as Texas' skid ends
BOSTON -- The Rangers' offense struck quickly in the first inning against the Red Sox on Thursday, and then pretty much shut down the rest of the game.This was one of the problems in an embarrassing four-game sweep against the Orioles last weekend in Arlington. This time, starter Tommy Hunter, unlike his last outing against the O's, made the early offensive barrage stand up and the Rangers opened the second half with a 7-2 victory over the Red Sox at Fenway Park. The victory snapped the four-game losing streak that came at the end of the first half and also came in a ballpark where the Rangers had lost 11 of their last 14. Texas was also 14-43 at Fenway before jumping on Boston starter Tim Wakefield for six runs in the first inning. The Rangers, before Thursday night, hadn't scored six runs in the first inning on the road since 1999. "It was a good way to start the second half, no doubt about it," Michael Young said. "The break was well-timed for us. We needed it. We were able to recharge and come back out tonight reenergized." The Rangers had 12 hits and the middle of the order did most of the damage. Vladimir Guerrero, Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz all had three hits each and Bengie Molina finished off the six-run barrage in the first with a two-run home run, his first with Texas. "I could tell coming into the clubhouse today that guys were energized and feeling good," Hamilton said. "It was good to jump on Wakefield and get those runs on the board. Tommy was able to relax and pitch his game." The Rangers took advantage of a first-inning break. Wakefield struck out Elvis Andrus to start the inning and appeared to do the same with Young, who swung and missed at a knuckleball in the dirt. Young, seeing the ball in the dirt, ran toward first and was thrown out easily by catcher Kevin Cash. But home-plate umpire Bruce Dreckman ruled Young had fouled off the pitch, much to Red Sox manager Terry Francona's dismay. "I don't think he fouled it or he wouldn't have run," Francona said afterward. "Most guys don't run when they foul it." Young, a career .234 hitter coming into the game against Wakefield, then grounded a single through the left side. After the game he admitted that he didn't think he fouled the pitch off either. "I swung, saw the ball in the dirt and took off," Young said. "They called me back. You always want to capitalize on a break and we definitely got a break there." Singles by Ian Kinsler and Guerrero brought home the first run. Hamilton doubled and the Rangers led 2-0. A single by Cruz brought home two more runs and Molina followed with his homer. Cruz also had an RBI double in the third against Wakefield. That was his last batter of the evening. "It was one of those nights that they were very aggressive, swinging early," Wakefield said. "Obviously I didn't have the depth or the movement on the pitch that I needed."
The Rangers didn't score after the third. They started the night with four straight hits with runners in scoring position against Wakefield, but were 1-for-11 the rest of the night.Hunter still made it stand up. He let a four-run lead slip away in his last start against the Orioles, and in his only other career start at Fenway, he had allowed nine earned runs in just 1 2/3 innings. But that start was on Aug. 14, 2008. Hunter's work left him 6-0 with a 2.39 ERA in eight starts this season. He is the first Rangers pitcher to win his first six decisions in a season since Esteban Loaiza in 1999. Jeff Russell (1988), Bobby Witt (1997) and Rick Helling (1998) also accomplished that feat. Hunter went 6 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on five hits. He walked two and struck out one. "I left the team in a bad situation my last outing," Hunter said. "Tonight, we scored some runs early and I had to go out there and just get some outs. It feels good, but there is room for improvement." Hunter's biggest moment was the fourth. The Rangers led 7-0, but after shortstop Elvis Andrus made a dazzling diving stop to throw out Kevin Youkilis, J.D. Drew put the Red Sox on the board with a home run. Hunter then gave up a single to Daniel Nava, hit Mike Cameron with a pitch and fell behind 3-0 to Bill Hall. A walk would not have been good there, but Hunter rallied to get Hall on a fly to deep center. Cash flied to right to end the inning. "From that point, you never know what might have happened," manager Ron Washington said. "Each time they threatened and Tommy got out of it, it was huge. Once you get those guys get going, especially in this park, it's hard to stop them."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.