Rangers Cruz to walk-off win vs. Orioles

Rangers Cruz to walk-off win vs. Orioles

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers had a home run taken away from them. The umpire even missed the call.

They were 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position. Their starter, fighting to keep his spot in the rotation, couldn't get through six complete innings, once again putting undue pressure on the bullpen. Their bullpen blew a save.

Yet the Rangers still walked off with a victory in the bottom of the ninth inning on Wednesday night.

Michael Young's hustle, Josh Hamilton's patience and Nelson Cruz's sacrifice fly made it happen in a 4-3 victory over the Orioles at the Ballpark in Arlington. The Rangers have now won three in a row and nine of their last 13.

"I thought that was a well-played game," Young said. "I would have liked to have squeezed out a few more runs with some big hits and we did have one taken away from us. But overall, it was a well-played game. Our pitching was great and once again, our bullpen did a good job. Fortunately, we were playing at home and had the last at-bat."

The Rangers might not have needed that last at-bat if Hamilton had been given a home run in the fourth inning. Hamilton, who hit one out in the second inning, also cleared the left-field wall in the fourth. But second-base umpire Doug Eddings ruled it hit off the top of the wall rather than clearing it. Hamilton was held to a double and did not score that inning.

That left the Orioles with a 2-1 lead and might have been significant if they had held on to win. But the Rangers were able to pull this one out. They scored two in the seventh without hitting a ball out of the infield and then took advantage of Young's hustle to win it in the ninth.

"That was a great win, a total effort," Cruz said.

The game was 3-3 when Young led off the ninth with a wicked one-hop smash up the middle that deflected off shortstop Cesar Izturis' glove and into shallow center. Young, running hard out of the box, never hesitated. He was around first before center fielder Adam Jones could race in to get the throw and bolted to second with a double.

"The second I saw it hit off his glove, I was thinking double," Young said. "If I can get into second and get into scoring position right away, it's big for the guys coming up after me. We have a deep lineup. I know we have a lot of good players after me. If I can get into scoring position right away, it gets us another out to play with.

That's exactly what happened.

"That's what you call hustle," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "That's coming out of the box hard as soon as the ball is put in play."

Orioles right-handed reliever Cla Meredith walked Ian Kinsler before getting Vladimir Guerrero on a fly to center. Orioles manager Dave Trembley then brought in reliever Alberto Castillo for a lefty-versus-lefty matchup against Hamilton. Castillo got ahead with two quick strikes, but then missed with four straight pitches away to walk the bases loaded.

"That was tough," Washington said. "That was a real good at-bat."

That left it with Cruz against right-hander Jason Berken and he lofted a fly ball to center to bring home Young with the game-winner.

"I was just trying to see a pitch middle-in that I could handle and drive to the outfield," Cruz said.

He made a winner out of Frank Francisco, who pitched a scoreless ninth and now has five wins in the Rangers' first 41 games. Rangers relievers also have six of the club's last nine wins.

Rangers starter Rich Harden pitched 5 1/3 innings. The Rangers need more than that from their starters -- especially Harden -- but he was better than Friday in Toronto when he gave up seven runs in 2 2/3 innings. That performance had the Rangers internally wondering if Harden needed a break from starting. This likely gives him a reprieve.

"Of course we needed to see something and he showed us," Washington said. "He threw the ball well."

Harden allowed eight hits, but walked just one while striking out six. He threw 103 pitches.

"I felt pretty good," Harden said. "My last start was as frustrating as I've ever been in my life. I just wanted to be aggressive and let it go. Just being inconsistent so far is frustrating. I want to go out and pitch well for this team. I haven't pitched as well as I'm capable of, but I'm making progress."

Harden left trailing, 2-1, but the Rangers took the lead in the seventh against reliever Matt Albers without hitting the ball out of the infield.

Matt Treanor led off the inning with a roller up the third-base line that went for a hit. After Joaquin Arias pinch-ran for him, Julio Borbon dropped a bunt and was safe at first when Albers bobbled the ball.

Elvis Andrus sacrificed the runners to second and third, and Young was intentionally walked to load the bases. Kinsler's chopper to second baseman Ty Wigginton scored one run and Guerrero's smash that third baseman Miguel Tejada couldn't handle allowed Arias to score.

But the Orioles tied it in the bottom of the eighth with a run-scoring single by Izturis against reliever Chris Ray.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.