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Ogando goes the distance to earn the win

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have a tradition of giving postgame beer showers to offensive players who deliver walk-off game-winning hits. Shortstop Elvis Andrus arbitrarily decided that pitcher Alexi Ogando deserved his own suds shower on Monday night.

"It was cold," Ogando said.

Also pretty special. Ogando was accorded the rare honor after delivering his first shutout as a Major League starter, pitching the Rangers to a 4-0 victory at the Ballpark in Arlington on Monday night. Ogando's performance came on a night when Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz celebrated their return from the disabled list with a pair of home runs.

Hamilton, jumping on the second pitch he saw, hit a two-out solo home run in the first, and Cruz added a two-run blast in the sixth.

"They made their presence felt," manager Ron Washington said. "It's great to have them back. Now we just need to keep our fingers crossed that they stay healthy."

Hamilton was in the lineup for the first time since April 12 while Cruz was starting for the first time since May 3. But Ogando has been in the Rangers rotation from the beginning of the season, a blister problem couldn't knock him off course, and he continued his brilliant pitching on Monday night before 30,861.

Ogando, relying mainly on his fastball and slider, allowed five hits, three walks and struck out six while throwing 115 pitches. He is now 5-0 with a 1.81 ERA in nine starts.

"Amazing," catcher Mike Napoli said. "He just goes right after hitters. He takes his fastball and just pounds it down. He gets after it. He commands down in the zone and away. He tries to make those guys hit his best stuff."

This was the first shutout by a Rangers pitcher at the Ballpark since Vicente Padilla on April 27, 2008, against the Twins. It was also just the fifth by a Rangers pitcher at home in the past 12 seasons.

Ogando's outing followed Matt Harrison, who pitched 8 1/3 scoreless innings in a 2-0 victory in Philadelphia on Sunday. Rangers pitchers have not allowed a run in their last 20 innings and this is the first time two of their starters have thrown at least 8 1/3 scoreless innings in two straight starts since John Burkett and Ken Hill threw back-to-back shutouts on Aug. 11-12, 1996.

Rangers starters are now 3-2 with a 1.60 ERA in their last eight games while averaging 7.75 innings per outing.

"Sometimes I don't know how to express things, but this is like a blessing from God," Ogando said. "That's what it is. Every inning I'm learning more, getting more experience and getting more comfortable on the mound."

Washington rarely has trouble expressing himself and isn't going to have much trouble thinking about Ogando when he puts the finishing touches on the American League All-Star team. Washington, as the AL manager, will likely select the final four pitchers for the staff and will have a hard time ignoring Ogando if he keeps this up.

"Ogando did an excellent job," Washington said. "He did an excellent job controlling the [White Sox bats]. Those guys can swing the bats and he kept the ball in play and the defense made plays behind him."

Ogando said he only had a hint of trouble from the blister on the index finger of his right hand, a problem that has been a recurring-but-surmountable issue since the start of the season.

"At the end, I felt it a little bit, but it wasn't bad," Ogando said.

Ogando did have a little trouble keeping the leadoff hitter from reaching base. The White Sox were able to get the leadoff hitter on in five innings. But two were erased by double plays and only one was able to advance beyond first base.

The White Sox had just one at-bat with runners in scoring position on the night. Juan Pierre batted with runners at the corners and two outs in the fifth, and Ogando retired him on a grounder back to the mound to end the inning. Paul Konerko singled with one out in the fourth but was thrown out trying to turn it into a double on a terrific throw by center fielder David Murphy.

Those were the White Sox only "threats." Ogando was in complete control from beginning to end.

"He threw strikes," Konerko said. "He's a hard thrower. And he mixed in sliders to keep us honest. He located the ball real well. He was a handful."

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