Rangers make most of Mother's Day
Texas hopes walk-off win will help turn things around
ARLINGTON -- One game out of 37 does not constitute total redemption, but you have to start somewhere. For the Texas Rangers, a truly uplifting Mother's Day victory looked like a very good place to start anew.
This 7-6 victory over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim had heartening written all over it. The Rangers had to come from behind three times. They won with a dramatic walk-off home run. And the victory came over the American League West Division leaders, the same team that had beaten the Rangers five times in five tries this season.
Outfielder Nelson Cruz, an extremely promising player who had been scuffling in all aspects of the game, provided the game-winner. When manager Ron Washington was asked if anybody needed this more than Cruz, the manager summed up the situation perfectly in two words:
It hasn't been particularly pleasant for the Rangers this season, who, even with this victory, are merely 15-22. They see themselves as genuine contenders, but they have not pitched or played defense well enough so far to reach that status.
Coming into Sunday, for instance, they led the Major Leagues with 33 errors. They committed two more in this game, but this time at least they had enough timely hitting and clutch pitching to prevail. Reliever Joaquin Benoit supplied the latter, pitching himself into a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the seventh inning, but then getting three straight Angels on two pop ups and a groundout to preserve a 6-6 tie.
This kind of performance deserves a victory. If it felt like a crucial victory for the Rangers, that was completely understandable.
"It's really important," Benoit said. "This is the team we are chasing right now. We've got a great team, we just need to put everything together -- hitting, pitching, defense. Our offense is together; now we need to pitch better."
Benoit took care of his share of that issue. Except for the defensive lapses, this result was exactly what the Rangers needed. Most managers publicly shy away from the "must-win" label for games at this early juncture, but Washington embraced the idea in this case.
"I think every game you play is a must-win, especially when you play the first-place team," he said. "I'm certainly glad we got it, because we certainly needed it -- if nothing else, just for our psyche, because this team has beaten us five straight times. It was nice to finally get them."
Washington said his message to the players during the course of this game was: "Just keep fighting, just keep fighting. If you keep fighting, with the offense that we have, with the potential for offense that we have, we're never out of many games."
That looks like an accurate appraisal. The question now would be whether the Rangers can turn this extremely positive afternoon into a trend. This had the look of a victory that could be the cornerstone for something better, but something better still doesn't happen automatically.
"Of course it can have a carryover effect, because now we've got some momentum," Washington said. "You want to seize that momentum. We don't have a walk in the park [on Monday] with [Jered] Weaver out there, but they don't have one, either, with [Kevin] Millwood."
The manager felt the same way about the residual effect of a walk-off homer.
"Of course there is," Washington said. "Especially when you've been fighting like we fought today. We earned that victory. Once again, we gave them some opportunities, but we earned that victory.
"So there is some residual effect to that. Just got to show up [Monday] with the same attitude, the same fight, the same fire and desire, and go at it and see what happens."
There was a brief line of questioning after this contest about how the Rangers might be better if they kept swinging pink bats and wearing pink wristbands. The bats and the wristbands are Major League Baseball's gesture on Mother's Day toward raising awareness of breast cancer. All nine Rangers hitters in the starting lineup used the pink bats. On this afternoon, those bats were used in both a good cause and to good effect.
But, no, the pink bats are a Mother's Day event. Their daily usage after this game might be seen as a mere superstition, rather than a reminder that baseball does have a sensitive, empathetic side.
But if the season turns in the right direction for the Rangers now, this day will not be forgotten. For a team that had been struggling, this game had all the elements it had been seeking, but not finding. If the Rangers make a move from this point forward, they will be able to say, accurately and vehemently: "We turned it around on Mother's Day."
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.