ARLINGTON -- The Rangers appeared dead going into the eighth inning on Sunday. Indians starter Josh Tomlin had a three-hit shutout and a three-run lead.
The Rangers were six outs away from falling into a first-place tie with the Angels in the American League West for the first time since July 5. But then everything changed dramatically. On another hot night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, the Rangers were able to enjoy one of their best comeback victories of the season, a 5-3 win over Cleveland.
"Tomlin, all of a sudden, couldn't find the strike zone and we stayed patient," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We got runners on the bases and good things happened."The only offense the Rangers got through the first seven innings was two swinging bunts from Michael Young -- the second accounting for the 2,000th hit of his career -- and a Mike Napoli single that quickly became an out when Napoli got thrown out trying to stretch it to a double.
Tomlin seemed to be rolling, as it had taken him just 85 pitches to get to the eighth."He was throwing all of his pitches for strikes early in the game, a lot of it offspeed," Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland said. "He was putting it where he wanted to, and he kept us off-balance. You have to tip your cap to a guy when he's doing that." Tomlin struggled with his command in the eighth, walking Napoli then giving up a single to Moreland to lead off the frame. Having thrown seven balls already in the inning, Tomlin was pulled by Indians manager Manny Acta in order to bring in a fresher arm to protect Tomlin's lead and victory. Joe Smith, who brought a 1.23 ERA into Sunday's game, was the choice, as he seemed like a good option to limit the Rangers' damage and move the Indians into the ninth ahead on the scoreboard. No matter the logic, the move opened the floodgates. Smith's first batter, Yorvit Torrealba, hit another swinging bunt similar to Young's to load the bases. From there, David Murphy, Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus each drove in runners against Smith to stake the Rangers to a 4-3 lead. "The infield hit is what it is," Smith said. "When you throw sinkers, you're going to give those up. everything else was just over the middle of the plate and up. I completely [stunk]. Tomlin throws seven great innings and I came in and I did not get the job done at all." It seemed like the Rangers just wanted to see anyone out there on the mound, other than Tomlin. "Once they got to the bullpen, we felt like we had a good chance," Kinsler said. "They brought in a tough guy in Smith, who's had a pretty good year, throwing the ball well, but we were able to string together some at-bats and put ourselves in a good position to win." The Rangers had been anemic in late-game opportunities, but of late, it seems like the team's best rallies have come in the late innings. "I really don't know, we're just trying to get ourselves in a good position to win. I think that's the main thing," Moreland said about their recent late-game success. "Maybe we focused a little more, I'm not sure. But that's the way it's been going for us. In the seventh, eighth, ninth inning, we lock it down more. I hope we can keep doing it that way." With the ongoing referendum on Neftali Feliz as closer put on hold because he had pitched in three straight games, Washington picked Mike Adams to safeguard the two-run lead. Adams did precisely that, retiring Carlos Santana and Kosuke Fukudome on four pitches. Adams struck out Lonnie Chisenhall on three pitches, then punctuated his second save of the season with a fist pump. "He was good," Washington said about Adams. "He came in and got three outs and nobody really centered the ball." Colby Lewis may have been overshadowed by Tomlin, but his contributions were not lost on his teammates.
Lewis was out of his comfort level, as eight out of nine batters in the Indians' starting lineup were left-handed, and lefties entered the game batting .290 against him. But the big right-hander pitched well, going 7 1/3 innings, giving up five hits and three runs."I really tried to pound it down and away," Lewis said. "I didn't get a lot of help from the umpire tonight. He was consistent in one aspect, where he didn't give it to me one bit off the plate." While he did not earn a decision, his resourceful pitching kept the Rangers in striking distance so that the one big inning would be enough to earn the win. "We're a team that understands that we can put an inning like that together at any point," Kinsler said. "Our pitchers understand that, and Colby did an unbelievable job of keeping us in the game."
Louie Horvath is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.