Little things add up in Rangers victory

Little things add up in Rangers victory

ARLINGTON -- Josh Hamilton bunted. He was trying to drop down the first sacrifice bunt of his Major League career.

On his own free will?

"Of course, you know he's doing it on his own," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

"That was awesome to see," second baseman Ian Kinsler said after the Rangers' 2-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs at the Ballpark in Arlington on Friday night. "Anything for the team to win. He understands that. The whole team understands that. We just don't want him to do that too often."

Washington would prefer Hamilton not do it all. He is the No. 5 hitter in an American League lineup, and his No. 1 role is to drive in runs. But Hamilton's sacrifice turned out to be part of a pivotal moment in a two-run inning that allowed the Rangers to win their fifth consecutive game.

"He got the runner over, and the runner ended up winning the game," Washington said. "So I love it."

Maybe the Rangers were just giving 38,943 fans a chance to see so-called "National League-style" baseball, fitting with Interleague Play happening in an American League park.

"I guess," Washington said. "The pitching was good, so it was the first team to make a mistake and, as it turned out, we took advantage of our opportunity."

The Rangers' pitching allowed them to get away with the No. 5 hitter dropping a sacrifive bunt. Colby Lewis, surviving early trouble in the first and second innings, held the Cubs to one run on six hits to get the victory, his first since April 25.

As has been the case for most of this homestand, the bullpen did the rest, as Darren O'Day, Frank Francisco and Neftali Feliz all pitched scoreless innings to close out the game. Four of the Rangers' five wins during this winning streak have come by one run, and they are 9-2 in their last 11 one-run ballgames.

"That helps your confidence as a team and lets you know the bullpen is doing a good job, the pitching is doing the job, and the defense is right there, too," Hamilton said.

Plus a sacrifice bunt.

"Amazing," Nelson Cruz said.

Kinsler and Cruz also contributed to the Rangers breaking through against Cubs left-hander Ted Lilly, who took a 1-0 lead into the fourth inning.

Kinsler began the inning with a dribbler up the third-base line. Mike Fontenot, playing third base because Aramis Ramirez is out with an injury, charged the ball, came up throwing and threw wildly past first baseman Derek Lee.

"I was playing way back, trying to make the play," Fontenot said. "Looking at it on film, if I had made a better throw, maybe I would've had a better chance at first base. I threw it away. I was trying to come up and make a play. I felt I was coming up pretty good on it."

Kinsler was credited with an infield hit on the play, but he wanted more. He broke for second, even though second baseman Ryan Theriot was backing the play up, and the ball came hard off the brick wall in front of the stands.

A good throw might have nailed Kinsler, but Theriot was wild with his throw, too, so Kinsler advanced to third base.

"Running from first to second, I thought I might be pushing it," Kinsler said. "The ball hit off the wall, and the second baseman did a good job of backing it up. Fortunately, he threw it into left field, and I was able to make it to third."

Vladimir Guerrero, who has 23 RBIs in his last 17 games, brought home Kinsler with a double to deep left, tying the game. That brought Hamilton to the plate. He was hitting .196 against left-handers coming into the game and struck out looking against Lilly in the first.

So he decided to bunt.

"[I have] Vlad on second, I'm 0-for-1, let's get the guy over so [Cruz] can get a pop fly or drive him home," Hamilton said. "We've been talking about it for awhile, if the situation arises, and you've got an opportunity. They're not expecting it, that's in my favor. It's not something you do every day, but we talked about it. If the situation calls for it, be a team player."

Hamilton got the ball down, and catcher Geovany Soto had to go to first with it, moving Guerrero to third. It was Hamilton's first sacrifice bunt since 2002, when he was in Class A Advanced Bakersfield in the Minor Leagues.

"It was a surprise, but he can do it all: bunt, steal bases, play good in the outfield," Cruz said. "He's the complete player."

Hamilton also left it up to the right person. Cruz ripped a double to right-center, and Guerrero came home with what would be the last run of the night. Cruz now has 13 RBIs in eight games since coming off the disabled list.

"It feels like every time I come up to bat, there are people on base," Cruz said. "I'm just being patient and driving the ball hard."

Driving the ball hard is good. So, too, is the sacrifice bunt at the right time. The five-game winning streak is best of all.

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