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07/25/07 12:51 AM ET
Rangers sweep behind Metcalf
Young third baseman's fourth hit drives in winning run
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Travis Metcalf was enjoying his best night as a Major Leaguer, and manager Ron Washington wasn't going to disrupt it by sending up a pinch-hitter. That normally would have been a logical move with Frank Catalanotto available but not when Metcalf was already 3-for-3 in the game with his first big-league triple. So Metcalf batted with a runner at second base and one out in the eighth inning. Metcalf immediately rewarded his manager's faith with a double into the left-field corner that chased home the go-ahead run and gave the Rangers a 4-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners in Game 2 of their doubleheader at Rangers. The victory gave the Rangers a sweep of the doubleheader, as they won the first game, 2-1, behind the pitching of John Rheinecker. Metcalf was 1-for-3 with a double and a run scored in the first game. "It was an exciting night, that's all there was to it," Metcalf said. "I've been working with [hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo] all week on my swing and it's good to see it pay off, getting the ball elevated and hitting it with authority." Pitching also had something to do with the sweep. Eric Gagne, after a rough night on Monday, saved both games as the Rangers allowed four runs in 18 innings. They now have a 3.51 ERA since June 29, the lowest in the Major Leagues. "That means a lot to us," Game 2 starter Kameron Loe said. "That means we've all been working hard to straighten out what's gone wrong. We've been busting our tails and to hear that stat means a lot." Gagne allowed three runs in Monday's game and Washington said before the doubleheader that his closer would be available for just one game. But Gagne convinced Washington that he could do double duty and backed up that claim by saving both games. It's the first time in his career he has saved two games in a doubleheader. "I felt great," Gagne said. "I wanted to get back on the mound and get the negative thoughts from Monday out of my mind. I was not worried about my body. I thought I had better stuff in the second game." Loe didn't get the victory but pitched his best game since the All-Star break, allowing three runs in 6 2/3 innings. He left with the score 3-3 and it was still that way when Gerald Laird led off the eighth with a single to right off Mariners reliever Chris Reitsma. Ramon Vazquez bunted him to second, and that brought up Metcalf. Washington admitted that he thought about pinch-hitting Catalanotto but decided to stay with Metcalf, even though he came into the day hitting .190 against right-handers. "This guy was swinging the bat as good as anybody in the ballpark," Washington said. "We decided to give him a chance to swing, and he came through." Metcalf's first four hits on the night were against left-handers and admitted that he wondered if Washington would pinch-hit for him. "I glanced over to the dugout to check it out, but no one grabbed me," Metcalf said. "So I flushed it out of my mind, went to the plate and went to work." He did and the double left him 11-for-30 (.367) in his last nine games. "This kid has been working hard," Washington said. "They keep putting those pitches in the wrong spot, and he hasn't been missing them. That's what happens when you're locked in. He's swinging the bat so well I couldn't take it out of his hands. I hope it makes him feel like he belongs up here." Loe also had to flush some negative thoughts from his mind when he thought he had struck out Raul Ibanez on a 2-2 breaking ball to end the fifth inning. But home-plate umpire Jim Reynolds, much to the Rangers' displeasure, ruled Ibanez had foul-tipped the pitch and was still alive. Ibanez hit the next pitch into right-center for a two-run double to give the Mariners a 3-1 lead. But Loe responded by striking out Adrian Beltre and retired the last six batters he faced. Loe, winning pitcher C.J. Wilson and Gagne combined to allow just one single and one walk over the final four innings. "Kam was as good as he has ever been," Washington said. "This was a great night. We pitched, we played good defense and we got some timely hitting. If we continue to pitch like we have been, catch the ball and continue to get timely hitting, we have a chance for a sweep. But that's a good team over there. They're going to come out swinging the bats tomorrow."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.