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07/02/08 12:14 AM ET
Kinsler sparks Rangers to victory
Leadoff man doubles, steals third, scores winning run in ninth
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- They went into the ninth inning tied at Yankee Stadium, and both managers used their closers. One is headed for the Hall of Fame. The other is a relative novice on the job. This time the novice emerged victorious, and the Rangers have now taken two straight from the Yankees with a 3-2 victory on Tuesday night. The Rangers beat Mariano Rivera with the help of some daring baserunning by Ian Kinsler, and C.J. Wilson closed it out in the bottom of the ninth for his third save in three days and his 19th on the season. This is only the second time in 14 years that the Rangers have been able to pin a loss on Rivera in his home park. "We came up against the best closer in the history of life," Wilson said. "To score one run off him is pretty sweet. Obviously, Mariano is a guy I've looked up to for a long time. But we knew he can't hold everybody scoreless forever. He's only human." The Rangers, with two straight one-run victories in the Bronx, have now won four of their past five games to move three games over .500. The Rangers entered this series with a 13-35 record in one-run games at Yankee Stadium going back to 1972. "We have to be pleased to hold them to three runs in two games," manager Ron Washington said. "You have to give credit to our own pitching staff. They've been outstanding." Rangers starter Kevin Millwood limited the Yankees to one run in five innings but couldn't quite shake off the effects of a hard ground ball from Robinson Cano that he took off the right shin in the second inning. Millwood battled through five innings but finally had to come out after throwing just 84 pitches. "It's frustrating," Millwood said. "I felt like I was actually pitching. I felt like I had good stuff. My leg just got stiff and sore. I didn't feel I could give us a real good chance, so I let them know it was bothering me." Turning it over to the Rangers bullpen is not a bad thing. Millwood left with a 2-1 lead, and the Yankees tied it up with three straight two-out singles in the bottom off the sixth off of Josh Rupe. But Rupe, Frank Francisco and Wilson held the Yankees to just one infield single and a walk over the final three innings. That left it tied at 2 when Rivera came through the bullpen doors with some 50,000 fans roaring and "Enter Sandman" rocking the ancient stadium. But the Rangers also had the top of their lineup coming up. That starts with Kinsler, who was already 1-for-2 with two walks and two stolen bases in the game. "I was just thinking I didn't want to foul a ball off my shins," Kinsler said. "I did that last year against him. He pounded me with a couple of cut fastballs then threw the sinker. I don't want to say I was sitting on it, but I was thinking about it because that was the pitch that I fouled off my shins. He put it in a good spot, and I got good wood on it." Kinsler drove it into the left-field corner for a double, and the Rangers were in business. But Kinsler wasn't done with Michael Young at the plate. As Young went to work, Kinsler got the sign from first-base coach Gary Pettis that Rivera was taking 1.6 seconds to throw his pitch to the plate. In relative terms, that's slow. "That's more than enough time for me to steal the base, and I didn't want to lose this game," Kinsler said. "So I was going." Kinsler was in a similar situation in the seventh inning, but Washington wouldn't let him go. This time Kinsler had the green light if he wanted to try it, and it's no time to be faint-hearted with Rivera on the mound. "With Rivera on the mound, you've got to get as close to home as you possibly can," Washington said. "He has that high leg kick, and Kins exploited it." The Yankees were forced to bring the infield in, and Young bounced a single up the middle to bring home the winning run. It's only the fourth time in 35 games that Rivera has given up a run, and it drove his ERA up from 0.74 to 0.96. "I have never been shy about saying how much respect I have for Mariano Rivera," Young said. "He's done things in this game no other closer has ever done, so it was nice just to be able to score off him." It was enough for Wilson. He did walk Wilson Betemit on four pitches to start the ninth, but then he got Melky Cabrera to hit a perfect double-play grounder to Young at short. Johnny Damon then grounded out to first baseman Chris Davis to end the game. "C.J. walked Betemit, but I didn't see him panic," Washington said. "We were sitting in the dugout saying, 'Get the ground ball for the double play,' and I'll be darned if he didn't get it." Wilson, despite a few rough spots mixed in, has now converted 11 straight save opportunities. He hasn't officially blown a save since May 19 against the Twins. "It's not an easy job to do," Millwood said. "He's been kind of thrown into it and he's done a good job. Everybody has a lot of confidence in him and wants him to do well. He's struggled at times, but show me a guy who hasn't." Wilson didn't struggle Tuesday night. Instead, the best in the game did.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.