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09/26/10 8:38 PM ET
Moreland makes strong case for playoff time
Four home runs, season-high 22 hits turn bout into Rangers rout
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
OAKLAND -- Turns out the Rangers can beat A's starter Trevor Cahill. They can downright clobber him.
They just needed the right lineup in there -- and that lineup includes Mitch Moreland.
The day after the Rangers clinched the division title, Moreland led a makeshift lineup with three hits, including two home runs, in the Rangers' 16-9 victory over the A's on Sunday afternoon at the Oakland Coliseum.
Colby Lewis earned the victory for the first time in six starts against the A's this season. Five of those starts were against Cahill, who entered 3-0 with a 0.68 ERA in four outings.
This time, he wasn't dealing with Michael Young, Vladimir Guerrero, Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz. They were all resting.
Instead, Cahill was going up against the likes of Andres Blanco, Esteban German, Taylor Teagarden and the red-hot Jorge Cantu. That lineup, more suited for a Spring Training trip to Tucson, pounded out a season-high 22 hits, including four home runs. Moreland had a big two-run shot in the third inning that opened up a 5-0 lead, and he added a three-run home run in the ninth.
"I've just been trying to keep working hard," Moreland said. "I've had the last couple days off and I've been working on trying to tighten things up. I'm seeing the ball better and I'm getting good swings. I got some good pitches today and I squared them."
The home runs were nice for the Rangers, who have now won three straight, but possibly even bigger for Moreland, who is suddenly in a fight for a spot on the playoff roster.
"I'm not thinking about that," Moreland said. "I've said all along that I'm doing what I can to contribute, enjoy this incredible season and this great group of guys."
That wasn't an issue two weeks ago. At that time, Moreland was established as the Rangers' left-handed-hitting first baseman and everybody was singing his praises. Then Chris Davis arrived from Oklahoma City and went 4-for-9 with a double, home run and four walks in 10 games.
So there was Davis at first base on Sunday while Moreland started in right field. That's the logical arrangement if both need to be in the lineup, but manager Ron Washington said before the game he wants to see Davis play this week.
"We've got a lot of games left," Washington said. "We haven't made a decision on that yet."
Cantu, who had three more hits on Sunday, is locked in as the right-handed-hitting first baseman, but the Rangers seem undecided between Davis or Moreland. Davis is clearly the superior defensive player, but that didn't save him in two previous tours with the Rangers this season.
Instead, he was twice sent to the Minors because he wasn't hitting, and now Moreland's lack of production has the Rangers concerned. He was hitless in eight at-bats and 4-for-25 with 11 strikeouts in his previous eight games.
"I'm just trying to relax and slow it down," Moreland said. "I've been pressing a little too much. Today it was easier to relax because we got everything out of the way."
Moreland went 3-for-6 with a single and the two home runs while Davis went 0-for-6.
"Mitch had a great game," Washington said. "Maybe he's back to where he was earlier. He had good passes on the baseball today and better timing. I think he needed that for his confidence. The time he took off, he worked hard and put it together today."
There is no doubt about Lewis' status for the playoffs. He is the Rangers' third starter and will pitch Game 3 at home. On Sunday, he reinforced his credentials for that spot by holding Oakland to one run on six hits and a walk over six innings. He struck out six, giving him 192 on the season, and is now 12-13 with a 3.72 ERA in 196 innings on the season.
"I'm just trying to stay in rhythm, keep my pitch count up and get the rest I needed for whatever [playoff] game I'm slotted in," Lewis said.
He left with a 9-1 lead and picked up the victory only after the Rangers held off a late charge. The two teams combined for 15 runs in the last two innings.
Cahill gave up seven runs on 12 hits in four innings. In his four previous starts against the Rangers, Cahill allowed just five runs, two earned, on 17 hits in 26 2/3 innings. The 12 hits he gave up were a career high and marked only the second time in 61 career starts that he has allowed 10 or more hits in a game.
"Nothing was really working for me," Cahill said. "I thought I made some good pitches and they hit those. Then I made some mistakes and they hit those. Can't really do anything about it, it was just one of those days."
It was a big day for Moreland.