Ramon Vazquez was the one who delivered the crushing blow, hitting a
two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the Rangers a
7-6 victory over the Seattle Mariners at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington
"A huge win" said outfielder Marlon Byrd, who started the winning rally
with a single. "We've just been playing well. The guys just believe,
and guys are just stepping up. It doesn't matter who, different guys are
just stepping up every game."
The Mariners had just taken a 6-5 lead with a three-run rally in the
top of the eighth off of relievers Frank Francisco and Joaquin Benoit.
That had left the Rangers in danger of losing for only the second time in
39 games this season in which they were leading after seven innings.
Instead they are now 38-1 in those games.
"If you ever get into a position when you're trying to win a division
and playing for a championship, you've got to learn to grind these games
out and win them," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We're doing
that. These guys are grinding for nine innings and getting a reward for
all their hard work. As long as our pitching gives us an opportunity,
they believe they can be in any ballgame. It's been that way all year, and
it's starting to pay off."
The Rangers still aren't in a position where they can be considered a
contender. They're still likely to be a "seller" as baseball marches
towards Tuesday's trade deadline. But a game like this and a series like this still
provide a sliver of tantalizing hope that there is something to be
salvaged from this season.
"Anytime you win a game like this it does a lot for your momentum and
confidence, and that's something we're looking to have for the final two
months of the season," shortstop Michael Young said. "We have been
playing well for a while, and the reason is we've been just focusing on every
game, not thinking ahead. That's what's enabled us to get hot."
The Rangers have now won 23 of their last 37 games. More significantly,
the Rangers won all four games against the Mariners by one-run and are
now 17-12 in one-run games this season.
But it didn't look good after a two-run double by Adrian Beltre and
another run-scoring double by Raul Ibanez off Benoit, who had given the
Mariners a 6-5 lead in the top of the eighth.
Byrd did get the Rangers going when he led off the bottom of the eighth
with a single and was bunted to second by Frank Catalanotto. With
Gerald Laird at the plate, Mariners manager John McLaren waved
As the All-Star closer jogged in from the bullpen, he brought with him
two significant streaks. He had been successful on 31 straight save
opportunities (29 this season), and he had not allowed a run in his last 22 innings.
In fact, he had allowed just eight hits and three walks in those 22
innings, while striking out 26. He started it off by striking out
Laird for the second out of the inning, making things even bleaker for the
That brought up Vazquez, who had struck out in his only other career
at-bat against Putz.
"I faced [Putz] once, and he went right after me," Vazquez said. "We
knew he was going to come right at us. We've had plenty of at-bats and a
lot of work. We've got to keep doing it. When I got here, I wanted to
do little things like move people over, and that's what I'm going to
Putz threw two balls, then tried to come in with a fastball. Vazquez
had not hit a home run since June 15 and had hit just 12 in 1,312 at-bats
in career. But he smashed the fastball from Putz high
and deep over the right-center field wall for a two-run home run.
"I was looking for a fastball," Vazquez said. "I began the at-bat
wanting to get on base and get ahead in the count. I got 2-0 and just wanted
to get on base, because I knew [Travis Metcalf, on deck] has been hot. I got my pitch, down in the zone."
In the Mariners clubhouse, Putz said it was a "pretty good" pitch, but
it doesn't change the fact that his two impressive streaks came to an
"You knew it was going to end at some point, but this wasn't the best
time," Putz said.
The Rangers didn't have their closer available. Eric Gagne was given
the night off after having pitched in the first three games of the
series. So Benoit went back to the mound for the ninth to set down the
Mariners in order to preserve the victory.
"It was a great night," Washington sad. "It was great that Ben went
back out there and did what he did. Everything worked out great."