06/08/08 10:01 PM ET
Rangers ride long balls to win vs. Rays
Murphy, Duran, Vazquez hit homers; Texas salvages finale
By Shawn Shroyer / MLB.com
Called up from Triple-A Oklahoma prior to the game, Duran smoked a two-run home run to straightaway center field in his second at-bat of Sunday's game against Tampa Bay to give Texas a three-run lead.
Duran, who was recalled to add depth to Texas' infield, provided a spark to a depleted lineup. With Michael Young and Josh Hamilton out of the lineup, the Rangers salvaged the final game of their series with the Rays, winning, 6-3, on Sunday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
"The whole at-bat, I was just trying to go up the middle," said Duran, who woke up at 5 a.m. CT on Sunday to fly out from New Orleans in time to get to the game. "Finally, he left one over the plate and I just put a good swing on it."
The home run off Matt Garza was Duran's only hit of the day as he went 1-for-4, but it helped the Rangers avoid going three games under .500 for the first time since May 11. With the victory, Texas improved to 32-33 and finished its 10-game homestand at 5-5.
In addition to Duran's long ball, Texas also received production from David Murphy, who filled Hamilton's spot in the order, Ramon Vazquez, who replaced Young at shortstop, and red-hot Milton Bradley.
Murphy went 1-for-5 with a home run to right field off Garza (4-3) in the first inning to give Texas a 1-0 lead. Vazquez went 2-for-4 with a home run of his own to right off Jason Hammel in the eighth, which extended Texas' lead to 6-2. Sandwiched between all of these long balls, Bradley scored two runs on singles by Gerald Laird in the fifth and Marlon Byrd in the seventh.
Bradley, who went 1-for-2 on Sunday with two stolen bases, is 11 for his last 20, including five home runs.
"Our bats have just been out of control lately," C.J. Wilson said.
With the offense stepping up, Doug Mathis (2-1) received enough support to earn his first victory since May 12 and shrink his ERA from 9.00 to 7.52. After five innings, Mathis had faced only three batters over the minimum.
"I made a couple of adjustments mechanically that made me more confident in my fastball," Mathis said. "I really came after guys with my fastball and then just made pitches after that."
Not until the sixth did the Rays get to Mathis. Akinori Iwamura led off the inning with a single to left and B.J. Upton brought him home with a one-out home run to right-center field that brought the score to 4-2.
The home run facilitated Mathis' exit, but the damage could have been much worse.
In the first inning, Tampa Bay had runners on first and third with one out, but Mathis struck out Eric Hinske looking and Laird caught Upton stealing at second for a strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out double play to end the threat.
In the fifth inning, the Rays had runners on first and second with one out, but Jason Barlett lined out to Ian Kinsler, who flipped the ball to first for an inning-ending double play.
While Mathis was experiencing divine intervention, the synergy between Tampa Bay battery mates Garza and Dioner Navarro disintegrated in the fourth inning.
Vazquez got the inning going for the Rangers with a one-out single to left field, which set the table for Duran -- who then worked a full count before sending a Garza offering over the center-field wall. Duran's family was in attendance to see his second home run of the season.
"It means a lot because they watched me play growing up and now they got to see me hit a home run at Rangers Ballpark," he said.
Later in the inning, there was an apparent mix-up between Garza and Navarro that caused Navarro to meet his pitcher on the mound. Within seconds, the two were in each other's face until pitching coach Jim Hickey separated them.
Duran's home run obviously didn't have the same effect on the Texas dugout.
"It certainly made us feel good and it made him feel good, too," manager Ron Washington said. "It got us on the board and gave us some breathing room."
Later in the inning, Garza and Navarro attempted a pitchout, but Garza's throw missed by a country mile and wound up at the backstop. When the inning was over, Garza met Navarro in the dugout and a scuffle ensued. It was quickly broken up -- Navarro was due up that inning -- but Garza didn't come back out for the fifth inning.
Emotions got the best of Hinske, too. He was ejected in the sixth for arguing a third-strike call. Replays showed he had a point, but they couldn't get him back in the game.
The Rays came close to making a comeback, bringing the tying run to the plate in the ninth, but Wilson struck out Carl Crawford for the final out to end the Rangers' homestand on a positive note.
"That was a big win for us as a team to avoid a sweep against one of the hottest teams in baseball," Mathis said. "We needed that one."
Shawn Shroyer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.