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08/24/10 11:43 PM ET
'Pen preserves Blanco's big night in Texas
No-hit relief complements infielder's doubles, game-winner
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- They finally got Andres Blanco. Elvis Andrus delivered the goods after the Rangers' 4-3 victory over the Twins on Tuesday night. All year long, Blanco has been the main culprit who has been sneaking up on unsuspecting teammates during post-game television interviews and splattering them with the "pie-in-the-face" routine. On Tuesday night, Blanco was the one who was licking and wiping the cream off his face after his two doubles helped the Rangers win their third straight game. "They have been saying all year, 'We got to get Blanco,'" Blanco said. "This was the first time. Now everybody is even." Blanco's father certainly enjoyed it. Hector Blanco was at the Ballpark in Arlington on Tuesday to see his son play in a Major League game for the first time in his five-year big league career. As a reward for making the long trip from Venezuela, Dad saw his son go 2-for-3 while driving in a go-ahead run in the fourth and scoring the eventual winning run in the seventh. "It was just a great night," Blanco said. "I was very proud that my family was here. I'm glad they gave me the opportunity, especially since we won a good game." Michael Young drove home the game-winning run with a seventh-inning single that brought home Blanco, Darren Oliver picked up the victory in relief of starter Colby Lewis and the Rangers have now won two straight over the Twins on this homestand. "They are a club that plays the game hard and plays the game the right way," Young said. "That's why they have league-wide respect. But we're a confident group. We like the style of baseball we play -- we've just got to stick with it." The Rangers were 3-for-8 with runners in scoring position against Twins starter Carl Pavano, a 15-game winner who pitched a complete game, but still ended up with the loss. The Twins were 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position against Lewis and three relievers. That one more hit with runners in scoring position made the difference. "Disappointing loss," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "A hard-fought game, a hard-played game. We missed some opportunities to drive in a run, and they got one in." The Twins' biggest missed opportunity came in the seventh. Michael Cuddyer's two-run double in the first gave them a two-run lead, and the Rangers came back to take a 3-2 lead in the fourth on a home run by Josh Hamilton and Blanco's RBI double. It was still that way in the seventh, with Lewis trying to hold on for his first victory since July 16. He couldn't get through the inning, but Oliver kept it from becoming a complete disaster. Delmon Young led off by reaching on an infield single and went to third on Danny Valencia's hit-and-run single to right. That put runners on the corners with nobody out, and Alexi Casilla doubled off the right-field wall -- just missing a three-run home run -- to tie the game. Valencia held at third on the play, and the Twins couldn't get him home. Drew Butera, with the infield in, hit a line drive right at Young for the first out. After Oliver replaced Lewis, Denard Span followed with a bouncer to first baseman Mitch Moreland, who threw home to just nip Valencia as he tried to slide around catcher Bengie Molina's tag. "That's the reason why we were playing the infield in," Moreland said. "The ball was hit softly and I had an opportunity to make the throw." Equally important was Molina making a deft one-hand grab on a throw low and to his left, then putting on a quick tag. "I just made sure I caught it because the ball was low, then make the tag," Molina said. "It's just a reaction play." Orlando Hudson grounded out to end the inning and end the Twins' last best threat. "Drew hit a rocket right at him," Gardenhire said, reviewing the inning. "That's the way it goes. Denard had a hitting count and rolled over. Their first baseman made one hell of a play on that ball. Not an easy play, a short-hop backhand and came up and made a throw. I don't know what replays showed. Some of them showed he was safe, some of them showed he was out. It was a close play at home plate." The Rangers just knew he was out, and they were able to take the lead in the bottom of the seventh. Blanco doubled down the left-field line with one out and scored on Young's single. Blanco ended up 2-for-3 on the night, and he has hit safely in eight of his last 11 games. This one came on a night when the Rangers announced they were calling up veteran infielder Alex Cora from Triple-A Oklahoma. Cora is coming up as a utility infielder. Right now, Blanco is the starter until Ian Kinsler returns. He deserves it, even if it comes with an occasional pie in the face. "Right now, the way I feel, Blanco is going to go out there," manager Ron Washington said. "Blanco has been doing a great job since we've put him in there. He really has."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.