ARLINGTON -- The Texas Rangers went run for run with the Detroit Tigers for three innings before Cole Hamels turned the game into a pitchers' duel, capped by Drew Stubbs' running catch on former Rangers slugger Ian Kinsler's drive to center field for a wild 7-6 victory on Tuesday night at Globe Life Park.
The win ended Texas' three-game losing streak and built its lead atop the AL West back to two games, now over the Angels, who won Tuesday. The Astros lost to fall a half-game behind the Angels. The Rangers' magic number dropped to four with five games to play after their win Tuesday.
"It was a huge night for us," Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland said. "One of those that just kind of went back and forth. We put some runs on them early, they grinded out at-bats against Cole, we made it a game -- it was just a tough one, we had to fight all the way to the end."
The Rangers nullified J.D. Martinez's first-inning two-run homer by putting up five runs in the bottom half, milking 54 pitches out of Detroit rookie starter Daniel Norris, but two-run rallies in the second and third pushed the Tigers back even. Once Shin-Soo Choo and Beltre hit back-to-back two-out doubles in the fourth, Hamels (12-8) rebounded, retiring 10 of the final 11 batters he faced following Dixon Machado's RBI double in the third for six innings of work.
Norris, on a 75-pitch count in his third start back from the disabled list, came back out from the marathon first before leaving with two outs in the second and 71 pitches thrown. Buck Farmer (0-4) retired his first five batters before the doubles, but took the loss.
The Tigers put the tying run on third base and the go-ahead run on first with one out in the ninth against Rangers closer Shawn Tolleson, but Rajai Davis popped up a squeeze bunt attempt. Kinsler sent a drive to right-center that Stubbs, who entered the game as a defensive replacement, ran down.
"There at the end, I had kind of crept in a little bit thinking he was going to take a defensive swing just to put the ball in play, and he actually got a good swing off on it," Stubbs said. "Luckily I was able to get there."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Tigers' mistakes get Rangers going: After the Tigers took a 2-0 lead on Hamels in the first, Detroit's defense let the Rangers right back into the game in the bottom half. Tigers second baseman Kinsler missed a grounder from Rangers leadoff hitter Delino DeShields and the Rangers immediately took advantage of that error when the next batter, Choo, homered. The Rangers scored two more runs after first baseman Jefry Marte couldn't catch a high pop in right field. The Rangers scored five runs in the first, but only two were earned, as Norris -- who was on a limit of 80-85 pitches -- threw 54.
"It's tough," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said, "because we wanted to get his pitch count up so his next start he can throw more pitches, but we also don't want him to expend himself in one inning."
Martinez mash: Martinez was mired in an 0-for-8 slump and was just 8-for-41 since his last home run on Sept. 16 at Minnesota, but he made Hamels pay for a two-out walk to Miguel Cabrera by launching a fly ball to right field for his 38th homer of the season. His 100th and 101st RBIs made him the first Tigers outfielder to drive in 100 runs in a season since Magglio Ordonez in 2008. More >
Rangers' bullpen doesn't bend: After Hamels allowed six runs in six innings, the Rangers turned the ball over to the bullpen with only a one-run lead. But Sam Dyson retired all three batters he faced in the seventh, Keone Kela pitched a perfect eighth and Tolleson earned his 34th save with a scoreless -- albeit hairy -- ninth in which he put two men on with one out but escaped unscathed. The Rangers' bullpen has an MLB-best 2.15 ERA in September, having allowed 19 earned runs in 79 2/3 innings.
Rajai pops up bunt: Tigers outfielder Davis was a well-hit fly ball away from tying the game in the ninth, stepping to the plate with runners at the corners and one out against Tolleson. When he saw the Rangers' defensive alignment, however, he decided to try a bunt on his own. The Rangers, expecting the Tigers might call for a squeeze play, had Tolleson throw a first-pitch high fastball, which Davis popped up as he quickly squared to bunt.
"It's definitely a big win. Every win right now is huge just from the magnitude of this late in the season and the position we're in." -- Moreland, on the Rangers lowering their magic number to four.
"It certainly wasn't our best defensive performance, but I still stick to the thought that these guys fought their tails off to the bitter end. In a game where we did make mistakes, they could've folded up shop and they didn't." -- Ausmus
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
According to STATS, Norris' 54-pitch first inning was the longest inning of any kind by a Major League pitcher since former Pirates starter Paul Maholm threw a 54-pitch third inning against the Cardinals on May 9, 2010. It was the longest opening inning since then-Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez threw 55 pitches at Atlanta on Aug. 1, 2007. Norris became the third Tigers pitcher to throw 50 or more pitches in the first inning, joining David Price from April 22 against the Yankees and Randy Wolf from two weeks ago at Cleveland.
The first couple innings lasted over an hour, but it was a short night for third baseman Nick Castellanos, who left the game in the second inning with a right index finger contusion, suffered when he fielded a ball during pregame batting practice. He's listed as day-to-day. Marte, who started at first base, moved over to third in his place, with Andrew Romine entering the game on the other side of the infield. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Tigers:Matt Boyd will make his final start of the season on Wednesday at 8:05 p.m. ET, giving him one more chance at his first win since his Tigers debut Aug. 5. The rookie left-hander, acquired from Toronto in the David Price trade, has taken no-decisions in his last four starts. He lost to the Rangers on Aug. 23 at Comerica Park after six innings of three-run ball.
Rangers:Yovani Gallardo will make his 33rd and final start of the regular season at 7:05 p.m. CT against the Tigers. Gallardo has lost back-to-back decisions and is 1-2 with a 5.18 ERA in five September starts.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.
Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.