Berkman delivers key blow as Rangers take opener

Berkman delivers key blow as Rangers take opener

Berkman delivers key blow as Rangers take opener

ARLINGTON -- Lance Berkman was reasonably sure he wasn't going to finish his career at 364 home runs.

"I have enough experience to know that something good is eventually going to happen," Berkman said. "You're going to hit a home run eventually. But when you're struggling ..."

Berkman has been struggling. But when he finally went deep in the seventh inning on Monday night to help lift the Rangers to a 6-3 victory over the Indians, his teammates decided to have fun with him. They pretended to ignore him with the old silent treatment when he returned to the dugout.

Berkman understood completely.

"I'm pretty sure I've put them to sleep with my performance of late," Berkman said.

Berkman had just three singles in his last 28 at-bats when he went to the plate with two outs in the seventh inning in a 3-3 game against reliever Nick Hagadone. This time he crushed a 1-0 fastball high, deep and straight down the left-field line for his fifth home run of the season and his first since May 24 to put the Rangers ahead for good.

"It was big, but we know what kind of hitter he is," third baseman Adrian Beltre said. "Everybody goes through some kind of slump, and I guess he's going through one right now. He's still swinging the bat well, and it was a huge hit for us. Hopefully that will get him going too."

Robbie Ross earned the victory in relief of starter Josh Lindblom, who allowed three runs over six innings in his second Major League start. Lindblom walked one, struck out six and threw 101 pitches after being called up when the Rangers put Alexi Ogando on the disabled list.

Lindblom allowed a three-run double to Carlos Santana with two outs in the third inning but then retired the last ten batters he faced before handing it over to the bullpen. He had allowed four runs over 4 2/3 innings in his previous start against Oakland on May 20.

"In both my starts I've had to go out there and battle, but the other team doesn't care about that," Lindblom said. "I was able to compete, even though I didn't have my best fastball, and I was able to keep them off balance."

Lindblom was sent back to Triple-A Round Rock after his previous start. His spot comes up again on Saturday and the Rangers haven't made any decisions on that. Manager Ron Washington said nothing has been guaranteed, but he did praise Lindblom's work after Monday's outing.

"After he gave up those three runs he really locked in," Washington said. "He kept us around and gave us a chance. He pitched well tonight."

Santana's three-run double gave the Indians a 3-1 lead. But Jeff Baker tied it up with a two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth against Indians starter Scott Kazmir. That gives Baker nine home runs in 78 at-bats this season.

"He's given us a big shot in the arm," Berkman said. "He's been great."

The game was 3-3 going into the bottom of the seventh when Jurickson Profar led off with a double to right against Kazmir. He went to third on Elvis Andrus' infield single, leaving runners at the corners as Indians manager Terry Francona brought in Hagadone, a left-hander, to face David Murphy.

Murphy hit a sharp grounder down the first-base line. Santana grabbed it, stepped on the bag for the first out and then had Andrus in a rundown. Santana threw to shortstop Mike Aviles, who then turned and threw over to get Profar, who was jockeying too far off third.

Andrus ended up on second and then advanced on a wild pitch on the first offering to Berkman. With first base open, Francona still wanted to pitch to Berkman with Beltre on deck. Beltre took a 14-game hitting streak into the game, so Francona went with the lefty against Berkman, a switch-hitter who generally hits better from the left side.

"With him, a guy like that, you're never dying to face him," Francona said. "But you've got Beltre sitting on deck. That was the matchup we wanted. He just didn't locate a fastball. The way it unfolded, man, it looked like we're going to get out of this with nothing. And then he threw a fastball and he didn't locate it and we paid for it."

They did so because Berkman hit the second pitch he saw into the left-field seats. The Rangers added another run that inning when Beltre walked and scored on a double by Nelson Cruz.

The Rangers, with a victory to open an 11-game homestand, now lead the Athletics by one game in the American League West. The Indians have lost eight straight after Joe Nathan closed them out in the ninth for his 20th save.

"It's a really good win, especially coming off a tough road trip," Berkman said. "Good teams play well at home, and I think we've done that up to this point this year. We've for the most part defended our home-field advantage and that's something that we have to continue to do, especially since we have this stretch here. It'd be nice to play well this whole homestand."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.