Decent starting pitching, a parade of relievers doing good jobs and Francisco Cordero sealing the deal: That formula worked again Saturday, as the Rangers nipped Toronto, 3-2, for their fourth consecutive victory.
After outslugging Baltimore last Wednesday in an 11-8 extra-inning marathon, the Rangers have won 2-1, 4-1 and 3-2. With Kenny Rogers suspended and Chan Ho Park now pitching for the Padres, the starting rotation is a work in progress. But this week, the available pieces have fallen nicely into place.
"Pitching always makes the difference," Rangers manager Buck Showalter said.
Starter Joaquin Benoit had a shaky first inning, as the Blue Jays scored twice with the aid of an Alfonso Soriano throwing error. But Benoit settled down thereafter, and the Rangers forged a 2-2 tie on Adrian Gonzalez's two-out solo homer in the sixth off Toronto reliever Jason Frasor.
Kevin Mench kept the inning alive with a single, and then came a play that was scary for the Rangers, but ultimately proved to be a game-winner. Gary Matthews Jr. hit a high chopper back to the mound, and reliever Frasor's throw hit Matthews in the back of the helmet and caromed down the right-field line.
When Matthews' helmet flipped over in front of his face, it prompted a collision with first baseman Shea Hillenbrand. A stunned Matthews went down and Mench came all the way around to score on a bang-bang play at the plate.
"He got a shoulder in the head," Showalter said.
Although he left the game at the end of the inning, Matthews seemed fine after Texas had improved its road record to 5-1. The Rangers checked the outfielder for a possible concussion.
"A little sleepy, a little woozy, but I'm OK," Matthews said. "I'm fortunate it wasn't a lot worse."
Showalter credited third base coach Steve Smith for his aggressive decision to send Mench home.
"It was a great send by Smitty," Showalter said, "and Kevin made a good slide."
Kevin Gryboski got a key out with men at second and third to get Texas through the sixth. Brian Shouse worked through the seventh with the aid of a pickoff, and Kameron Loe worked the eighth before giving way to Cordero.
Working in his fourth consecutive game, Cordero got through the ninth with just 13 pitches to pick up his 26th save.
"I've been throwing better pitches my last few outings," Cordero said. "I'm throwing downhill. My fastball and slider are coming out the same way, and I've got a changeup I can go to when I need it. Right now, they have to look for a third pitch against me."
Benoit is 2-0 on the road trip, and has allowed just one earned run on the road in 26 1/3 innings this season.
"The mound on the field was really different than the one in the bullpen, and it took me that whole first inning to adjust," Benoit said. "It was pretty steep and I had to figure out a way to do things. After that, it wasn't easy, but I was able to keep them from getting any more runs and our guys came back."
Matthews, who has been a major contributor on this road trip, expects to be ready for the finale of the Toronto series as the Rangers go for the sweep Sunday afternoon.
"It was like taking a punch in the face," Matthews said. "I got it on the left cheekbone. I'll see how it is tonight and go from there. We got another win today that we really needed, and I just want to be in there and help us keep it going."
Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.