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06/26/07 12:06 AM ET
Loe keys another Rangers victory
Four-run third gives right-hander all the support he needs
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
DETROIT -- Kameron Loe made the statement earlier this year that his avowed goal was to become a No. 1 starter in the Major Leagues. He obviously has a long ways to go, but he seemed to be doing a pretty good imitation of one on Monday night in an 8-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers before 36,330 at Comerica Park. In winning his third straight start, all Loe did was... Beat the defending American League champions in their own ballpark and end their seven-game winning streak. Beat Jeremy Bonderman, who had won eight straight decisions and had not suffered a loss in his last 17 starts. Hold the highest scoring team in the Major Leagues to two runs over seven innings. Save a bullpen that was coming off a 10-inning loss to Houston the night before and allow the Rangers to use Willie Eyre as a starter on Tuesday. Put on a clinic when it comes to pitching with a lead. All of this came against a team that had knocked him around for nine runs over 2 2/3 innings in an 11-4 loss on June 7. It was after that loss that Loe was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma, only to get a reprieve when Brandon McCarthy went on the disabled list. On Monday night, Loe was far closer to being a No. 1 starter than he was a Triple-A pitcher, and the Rangers have now won eight of their last 11 games. "He was just outstanding," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "To do that against a team that's swinging the bat like they are, that's just what we needed. That's Kam. He's going to leave his heart out there for you and he did that tonight. He's been outstanding his last three times out." Indeed. Loe held the Tigers to two runs over seven innings and he's now 3-0 with a 2.07 ERA in his last three starts. He is the first Rangers starter to win three straight games this season. The two previous starts were against National League teams with losing records. The Tigers are one of the hottest teams in baseball, especially with Bonderman on the mound. "It was definitely a fun challenge," Loe said. "I really don't pay attention to the opposing pitcher, I let our guys take care of that. But the combination of them hitting me around pretty good last time and them being as good as they are, it was definitely a big win and something special." Tigers manager Jim Leyland thought so. Leyland had been complimentary toward Loe after his previous outing against the Tigers and Monday's performance reinforced his judgment. "I like him a lot," Leyland said. "I liked him that night. He pitched a lot better than his numbers showed that night. That particular night, he had a couple tough plays. He's got really good movement on his ball. I thought he pitched well, very well. And we got beat, plain and simple." Loe started off shaky. The Tigers loaded the bases with one out in the first, but Loe escaped, allowing just one run on a sacrifice fly by Carlos Guillen. He struck out Ivan Rodriguez to end the threat. The second inning started with Sean Casey reaching on a single, Craig Monroe drawing a walk and Brandon Inge bunting them to second and third. But the Tigers didn't score. Washington moved the infield and Loe got Curtis Granderson on a grounder to Ian Kinsler that held the runners. Placido Polanco then grounded out to third baseman Ramon Vazquez to end the threat. "To get out of those first two innings with just one run was huge," Loe said. The Rangers responded with four runs in the third against Bonderman, with everything coming after two outs. Singles by Kinsler and Michael Young and a walk to Sammy Sosa loaded the bases and then Marlon Byrd singled to left-center to give the Rangers the lead. Bonderman's throwing error on Frank Catalanotto's grounder and a single by Adam Melhuse made it 4-1. That's when Loe really took over. He walked back to the mound in the bottom of the third and retired Gary Sheffield, Magglio Ordonez and Guillen on just seven pitches. That was the first of four straight scoreless innings that Loe delivered after getting the lead. There have been many times this season when the Rangers would have killed for just one scoreless inning after getting a lead. "That's what a good starting pitcher is supposed to do," Washington said. "When you get a lead, put up some zeroes. It was outstanding. He was outstanding." Loe faltered in the seventh when Brandon Inge doubled and Curtis Granderson tripled, making it a 4-2 game. But Polanco grounded out to Vasquez to end the threat. Vazquez finished the night with seven assists, including starting two double plays. "Kam makes you comfortable," Vazquez said. "He was getting the ground balls and we were making the plays." Akinori Otsuka pitched a scoreless eighth, retiring the side on nine pitches, and then the Rangers broke the game open with four runs in the top of the ninth. But, as Leyland put it, the game was decided before that. "You can look at it a lot of ways," Leyland said. "But the fact of the matter is, Loe outpitched Bonderman. It's that simple."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.