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Must C Clutch: Rangers rally late for walk-off win

ARLINGTON -- Solid relief pitching was once again the key in Tuesday's 7-6 win over the Mariners at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

The Rangers had it, their opponents didn't. The Mariners could not prevent Texas from scoring four runs in the final three innings, capped by Josh Hamilton's walk-off single. The Rangers' bullpen was stingy, allowing just three hits.

"Bullpen saved us again tonight, they came in and did a great job, starting with [Yoshinori Tateyama]," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Everyone came in behind him and did what they had to do and gave us an opportunity to get us back in the ballgame."

Of the five relievers that combined to pitch 6 1/3 scoreless innings for the Rangers, two of them have spent time at Triple-A Round Rock, one is the closer who has struggled of late and one didn't start the season in the Texas organization.

None of that mattered, as they each came in -- first Tateyama then Mark Lowe, Darren Oliver, Mike Adams and Neftali Feliz -- and locked down the Mariners.

The 6 1/3 innings pitched, nine strikeouts, three hits and two walks that the bullpen combined to throw looks like a line Tuesday's starter Alexi Ogando is used to putting up. Instead of pitching like the All-Star he is, Ogando struggled, going just 2 2/3 innings while giving up six earned runs in his return from the paternity leave list.

"Ogando, he's one of our best pitchers and we're not used to seeing that out of him, and our bullpen was able to pick him up tonight," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "That was big. That's why we got those pieces at the Trade Deadline, and we were able to bolster our 'pen."

The bullpen kept the Mariners at six runs, giving the offense a steady target to hit in order to win the game. Even though it took them all nine innings, they hit it eventually.

"They play nine innings and never think they're out of a ballgame," Washington said. "We're able to put runs on the board, and that's the way we feel. Once again, we certainly don't want to keep putting ourselves in that position, but if we find ourselves in that position, we know what we're capable of doing. We just keep putting at-bats together, continuing to grind, and when you do that, good things happen, and that's what happened tonight."

Kinsler started the rally in the seventh when he hit a towering two-run home run to left field, his 17th blast of the season, which brought the game to 6-5.

In the eighth, Nelson Cruz drew a four-pitch walk, but he seemed to be picked off by Mariners reliever Jeff Gray. Cruz took off for second, then a split second later, Gray threw over to first. By the time first baseman Mike Carp threw to second, Cruz was safely in scoring position.

"That's where they are and where we are right now," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "It was just perfect timing. No way to defend that -- just about the time he's going to pick over there, Cruz took off and there's really nothing you can do about it."

From there, Yorvit Torrealba doubled over Ichiro Suzuki's head in right field to bring home Cruz and tie the ballgame.

In the top of the ninth, Feliz pitched a scoreless frame.

"Neffie came in and did a great job and shut them down," Kinsler said. "After Torrealba's hit, all the momentum is in our favor if Neffie shuts them down, and he got them 1-2-3. My goal is just to make sure I got on base and kept that momentum going."

Kinsler did just that, walking on four pitches. Endy Chavez followed with a bunt that crept just between the infield grass and the first-base line, in such a place that the Mariners could only hope it would roll foul. It did not, and with runners on first and second and no outs, the stage was set for Hamilton.

"There's never a doubt," Kinsler said. "Josh's plate coverage is ridiculous. Against a lefty, you knew he would try to throw sliders down and away and get Josh to swing over top of them. We never doubted him." Comments