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09/25/07 1:03 AM ET
Big homers lift Rangers in opener win
Young, Byrd go yard in Galarraga's first MLB start to sink Halos
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers parade of rookie starting pitchers going against the American League West champions began with an unusual twist on Monday night. Armando Galarraga, making his first Major League start, had a no-hitter going after four innings. "I didn't know I had a no-hitter going," Galarraga said. "After walking a few people, I didn't think about that. I was just trying to get my pitches down in the zone." He was also just three outs away from a shot at his first Major League victory. He probably would have settled for that. Instead he couldn't get either one, but the Rangers are still 1-0 when he starts. Galarraga, after getting off to a nice start, was knocked out in the fifth inning, but the Rangers were still able to rally after he was gone and defeat the Los Angeles Angels, 8-7, at the Ballpark in Arlington on Monday. Michael Young had four RBIs on an RBI single and a three-run home run, giving him 90 RBIs on the season. That ties him with Sammy Sosa for the club lead and he now needs three hits in his final five games to reach 200 hits for the fifth straight year. "It's always important to finish strong, [until] there's no more games on the schedule," Young said. "It would be nice to get that [200-hit mark], but the reason why I'm there is I want to put the team in position to win. We have five games left, and we'll take it at that and go out and finish the season and take pride in it." Gerald Laird had three hits and Marlon Byrd hit a two-run home run for the Rangers, giving reliever Bill White his second victory in eight appearances since coming up from Double-A Frisco. Wes Littleton pitched a scoreless ninth for his second save. The main attraction though was Galarraga, almost forgotten as one of three players acquired from the Washington Nationals in a trade for Alfonso Soriano two years ago. He re-emerged on the radar after an 11-win season combined at Frisco and Triple-A Oklahoma and was given center stage on Monday night. The Rangers liked what they saw, even if Galarraga couldn't get out of the fifth inning. They still have two more games to get through. A.J. Murray makes his first Major League start against the Angels on Tuesday and Luis Mendoza makes his second start on Wednesday. Galarraga got the rookie parade off to a good start. "I was very pleased tonight," pitching coach Mark Connor said. "He got a little bit tired, his pitch selection wasn't good in the fifth. I'm not going to fault him in the fifth inning because of what he did in the first four. It was nice to see him pitch, I haven't seen him pitch [besides] in Spring Training. I don't see fear in him, it's been a pleasant surprise." The only thing the Rangers saw that concerned them was Galarraga relied a little too much on his breaking ball and changeup. They would like him to work off his fastball a little more but that's not unusual. The Rangers often have to fight that same battle with Vicente Padilla. "He does have good stuff but he has to use his fastball more," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "I thought for four innings he handled himself well. He had his composure. Then in the fifth inning they made him work. Earlier they had been chasing some pitches, then they made him throw the ball in the zone. That's a good team, that's what they do." Galarraga, called up on Sept. 12 because the Rangers needed extra arms in the bullpen. started only because Padilla is serving a seven-game suspension and did not face the Angels' best. Both Vladimir Guerrero and Garret Anderson were given the night off after the Angels clinched on Sunday. The Angels did have a few other regulars in the lineup though, including Chone Figgins, Orlando Cabrera, Gary Matthews Jr. and Casey Kotchman, and none of them had a hit through four innings against Galarraga. He retired the side in the order in the first, then walked two in the second. Both moved up to second and third on a two-out double steal but Galarraga struck out Howie Kendrick to end the inning. "I was a little bit nervous at the beginning, but as the game went on I got more comfortable and I got my pitches down more," Galarraga said. "It was exciting. Every player wants to be here." Galarraga took a 4-0 lead into the fifth but couldn't get those three outs to qualify for the win. Instead, the Angels jumped on him for five funs and Galarraga left trailing, 5-4, after giving up a two-run home run to Kotchman. White had to bail him out and ended up getting the win when Byrd hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth. "We were hoping to get him through the fifth with the lead," Washington said. "There's nothing to hang his head about. He went out and threw the ball well against a good team, a team that's going to the playoffs and possibly has a chance to win the World Series. He had a no-hitter through four. That's a feat against that team right there."
T.R. Sullivan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.