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09/14/06 12:14 AM ET
Matthews hits for cycle in victory
Outfielder is just the third Rangers player to pull off feat
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
DETROIT -- Gary Matthews Jr. just got better as the night progressed. By the time he was through, he was the third player in Rangers history and, more importantly, the first in his family to hit for the cycle. Matthews started with a single in the first, added a double in the second and a triple in the fourth, and then finished it off with a home run in the sixth, a historical offensive performance that also happened to carry the Rangers to an 11-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on Wednesday. The performance was the latest in a breakthrough year for Matthews that has included being named to the All-Star Game for the first time and a series of defensive gems -- topped by the now-famous catch of Mike Lamb's home run in July -- that have put him in the running for a Gold Glove. Now comes the rare cycle, something his father, Gary Matthews, did not accomplish during an otherwise distinguished 16-year Major League career. "So I now have something else on him now," Matthews said with a smile. "I definitely expected to have a good year, but it's been so much more than I ever thought it would be. To go out and have a day like this one is just the icing on the cake. The only thing that would make it better is having my family here, but I'm sure they're watching at home on television." Matthews walked and scored on Michael Young's two-run home run in his last at-bat in the eighth inning. The Rangers hit five home runs in all, including two by Carlos Lee and one by Matt Stairs, to finish 4-4 on their eight-game road trip. It was a magical night allaround for the Rangers' leadoff spot. Matthews could have batted for a sixth time with two out in the ninth, but rookie Joaquin Arias pinch-hit for him. In his first Major League plate appearance, Arias drew a walk. In the clubhouse after the game, Matthews was treated with a shower of beer from his teammates, a ceremony they normally reserve for guys who hit walk-off home runs. "That was awesome," winning pitcher Kevin Millwood said. "It's just good to see somebody accomplish something like that. When you're pitching, it even makes it more special." Millwood held the Tigers to three runs in seven innings to become the 10th pitcher in the American League to win at least 15 games this season. He beat rookie Justin Verlander, a 16-game winner who gave up Matthews' first three hits. The home run, in his first at-bat of the night as a right-handed hitter, came off left-handed reliever Mike Maroth. "He didn't wait," manager Buck Showalter said. "He cut through the anticipation. To do that before the sixth inning is over is doubly impressive." Said Tigers manager Jim Leyland, "He hit everything we threw. That was the fastest cycle I think I've ever seen." Matthews started the game with a single off Verlander but did not score. The next two hits did some damage, both coming in key situations with two outs in the inning. Matthews came up with runners at first and second with two outs in the second inning and doubled into left-center to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. The Rangers were up 2-0 in the fourth when Matthews smacked a two-out, run-scoring triple to right-center and then scored on Young's single to right. The Rangers were up 7-3 in the sixth Matthews jumped on Maroth's first pitch and hit it over the left-center-field wall for his 17th home run of the season. "First-pitch fastball." Matthews said. "I knew I had a couple of at-bats to do it, but it's so hard to go up there and hit a home run. I just went up there hoping to get a good look and see what happens. I'm not the type of guy who can go up there and try to hit a home run. "I wasn't even sure it was going to go out, but when it did, I remember thinking how unbelievable it was. You never think it's going to line up all just right. There are plenty of other guys who missed one of the four. But everything lined up just right." The second-inning double also had historical implications. It was the 329th for the Rangers this season, and Ian Kinsler added a double in the fourth, tying the club record of 330 set in 2000. "I want the next one," Kinsler said. Matthews was the 14th player to go for the cycle in "natural order," starting with a single and finishing with a home run. Brad Wilkerson, now Matthews' teammate with the Rangers, was the last to do that on June 24, 2003, when he was with the Montreal Expos. Matthews is also the 19th switch-hitter to hit for the cycle and the last since teammate Mark Teixeira did it for the Rangers on Aug. 17, 2004, against the Cleveland Indians. Oddibe McDowell was the first Ranger to hit for the cycle on July 23, 1985, also against the Indians. "I'm so happy for Gary," Teixeira said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing and a nice feather in your cap." Matthews is the fourth player to hit for the cycle this season in the Major Leagues. The others were the Tigers' Carlos Guillen, the Mets' Jose Reyes and the Astros' Luke Scott.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.