Blalock walk-off draws Texas within half
Texas pulls closer in division on slugger's second shot
ARLINGTON -- Hank Blalock was already having a huge night. Turns out he had one more big swing in him, the Rangers needed it badly and Angels manager Mike Scioscia let him have it.Blalock, with Michael Young standing on second base and two outs in the ninth inning, crushed a two-run home run to center field that gave the Rangers an electrifying 9-7 victory over the Angels at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Wednesday night. They are now a half-game out of first place in the American League West Blalock had already hit a fourth-inning home run and notched a sixth-inning double that helped start a five-run rally. But this was the first walk-off homer of his career and he called it his biggest home run since his eighth-inning game-winner in the 2003 All-Star Game. "It was really great to see my teammates waiting for me at home plate," Blalock said. "That was a good one," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "That was fun and it couldn't have happened to a better guy in the lineup. Two home runs and one a walkoff. Nothing bigger than that." Young led off the inning with a single to center against Angels reliever Justin Speier and was bunted to second by David Murphy. Marlon Byrd then struck out looking. That brought up Blalock with Julio Borbon, in his second Major League game, on deck. Borbon had entered the game in the sixth-inning rally and singled home a run for his first Major League hit. But it still seemed like the Angels would walk Blalock to get to Borbon, especially after pitching coach Mike Butcher went out to talk to Speier. "Mike went out to see how Justin felt and to get a game plan," Scioscia said. "We had a couple of options." Scioscia said of the potential intentional walk, "weighed a lot. Of course we thought of that. If Justin didn't feel good about where he was ... but Justin felt good going after him." Blalock was ready when the Angels decided to pitch to him. "The way I've been pitched to all year, I have a tendency to chase," Blalock said. "I just wanted to make sure I got something good to hit and it ended up being the first pitch." "I threw a little backdoor slider," Speier said. "That was the right pitch. I just made a mistake, and he took advantage of it. I threw the same pitch the other night [Monday] and he swung through it. Tonight, he got me." The ball sailed high and deep over the center-field fence as his teammates came piling out of the dugout to mob him at home plate and give him the traditional beer shower in the clubhouse afterward. "I reek of beer," Blalock said. "We won that game with heart, fight and desire," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "That was it right there." The Rangers led, 7-1, after six innings. But the Angels scored three off Kevin Millwood in the seventh and Juan Rivera tied it with a three-run home run off Frank Francisco in the ninth. Francisco, who was moved back into his closer's role for the first time since coming off the disabled list, set up the game-tying blast by walking Bobby Abreu and Torii Hunter. It was his second blown save in a week after converting 17 straight save opportunities. He still ended up as the winning pitcher. "I don't care about that," Francisco said. "Millwood deserved to win the game. He worked his tail off. It doesn't matter how hard I throw, I need to locate my pitches, and my fastball was all over the place." Millwood went 6 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on eight hits and three walks with four strikeouts. His 2.80 ERA is still in the top five in the AL, but the blown save cost him a chance to be one of six pitchers in the league with nine wins. "It was a little disappointing, but I didn't pitch that great either," Millwood said. "It wasn't one of those days where I dealt for seven innings and was out of there." In the end, it didn't matter, at least on this night. Blalock rescued the Rangers in the 10th inning and they were able to take two of three from the Angels. "You all had us in the grave, buried and with dirt on us," Washington said. "But we played good baseball tonight. We didn't get it done in regulation, but the character of the clubhouse showed up tonight."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.