Washington told his players after a loss on Saturday night that they needed to get back to playing good baseball again. He wanted his team to play Rangers baseball, which includes good pitching, defense, running the bases and execution. They did all that in avoiding being swept by the Angels.
"We just had to get back to who we are," Washington said. "Play the game with fun and play the game with agression. That's what we did. It was just a good all-around game."
"Our focus today was at a whole different level than the last few days," said shortstop Elvis Andrus, who highlighted the Rangers' errorless defensive work with a couple of outstanding plays. "Yesterday's talk opened everybody's eyes."
The Rangers also showed some serious power at the right moment. The big blow on the afternoon was a two-run homer by Nelson Cruz in the seventh ining. The ball landed halfway up a hill in left-center and was measured at 484 feet. That's the longest home run in baseball this year.
"I can't hit it any harder than that," Cruz said.
The home run, after Young led off the seventh with a single off reliever Bobby Cassevah, came on a 3-0 pitch, with Washington giving him the green light.
"I told them last night I wanted them to be a aggressive, so I had to be aggressive myself," Washington said.
Cruz's home run helped make a winner out of Matt Harrison, who allowed three runs in 6 2/3 innings to earn his seventh win. Harrison not only snapped the Rangers' losing streak, but has won three in a row himself.
"You never want to have a losing streak, so it was good for us to leave here with a win," Harrison said. "It was a big game for us. We can bounce back and get on a winning streak."
Harrison left with two on and two out in the seventh. The Rangers, after Cruz's home run, led 5-2. Alexi Ogando took over, giving up a run-scoring single to Mike Trout. He then walked Alberto Callaspo to lead the bases, and that brought up Albert Pujols.
"I don't know what Alexi was feeling, but I wasn't feeling good," Washington said.
Ogando was feeling strong. He went right after Pujols with fastballs, starting at 98 miles per hour and finishing at 100. The last one broke Pujols' bat on a fly ball to left to end the inning.
"I'll take that showdown," Angels outfielder Torii Hunter said. "Bases loaded, Ogando, 98 mph, 99, and Pujols at the plate; I will take that scenario every freaking time."
The Rangers beat Angels starter Dan Haren, working him for 104 pitches over just five innings. They were also able to stake Harrison to an early lead.
Mike Napoli and Mitch Moreland got the Rangers started in the third inning with a pair of singles. Ian Kinsler followed with a medium fly to right-center that right fielder Mark Trumbo caught on the run. Napoli tagged up and made an aggressive dash for third, barely beating the throw. Elvis Andrus brought him home with a double off the right-field wall.
The Rangers made it 2-0 in the fifth after Kinsler led off with a double and was bunted to third by Andrus. Kinsler had to stay at third when Josh Hamilton flied to shallow left, but after Adrian Beltre walked, he scored on a single by Young off Pujols' at glove first base.
Harrison retired the first 12 batters he faced before walking Trumbo on four pitches to start the fifth. He struck out Hunter and retired Howie Kendrick on a fly to center, but Erick Aybar doubled into the left-field corner, bringing Trumbo home.
The Rangers got that run right back in the sixth. David Murphy led off with a double. After Napoli was hit by a pitch, Moreland bunted the runners to second and third. Kinsler brought Murphy home with a grounder to short.
"This afternoon, some things got away from us," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We were behind too many counts, too often. Our ability to really command counts is what set us up the first two games of this series and we were able to control some things. But today, it got away from us a little bit. They were in a lot of hitting counts, and they pressured us on the offensive side more than we could stop them."
Angels catcher John Hester, who was batting ninth, led off the bottom of the sixth inning with his first home run of the year, making it 3-2. But Harrison averted further trouble after a two-out walk to Pujols and a high pop by Trumbo that fell into shallow right-center for a double. With runners at second and third, Harrison retired Hunter on a fly to right to end the inning.
"I felt really good for the first four or five innings," Harrison said. "I felt locked in and able to put the ball where I wanted. The thing I was upset about was some of the walks, but the defense was outstanding behind me and we were able to come out with a win."