Laird helps Rangers solve Yankees

Laird helps Rangers solve Yankees

NEW YORK -- The Rangers were without Michael Young on Thursday because of a right hamstring injury, but they had catcher Gerald "Wheels" Laird back in the lineup.

Laird missed Wednesday's game because of a bruised hip, but he was flying all over the basepaths on Thursday, igniting rallies, dodging rundowns and helping the Rangers salvage a near-disastrous three-day stay in the Bronx.

For a catcher, Laird can run, and he ran the Rangers into a couple of three-run rallies that carried them to a 14-2 victory over the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

"He hurt his rear the other day, and it woke his rear up," manager Ron Washington said after the Rangers snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Yankees dating back to last season.

The 14 runs were the second most scored by the Rangers in Yankee Stadium, behind a 16-5 victory in 1998.

"It's always good to have a game like this," outfielder Kenny Lofton said. "Guys hit the ball good, and they were falling. The last few weeks, guys were hitting the ball hard and not having [anything] to show for it. Today, the ball was falling."

Victor Diaz put the finishing touches on the rout with a pinch-hit grand slam in the eighth inning, Mark Teixeira was 4-for-5 with three RBIs and a career-high three doubles, and Sammy Sosa had three singles and two RBIs.

"We scored a lot of runs today, and we got some guys in with big hits," Teixeira said. "A game like this doesn't hurt, but consistency is the big thing. Scoring 14 runs is great, but if you get shut out the next two nights, you forget all about the 14 runs."

Much of the Rangers' offense came in the late innings after the outcome was pretty much decided. Laird's baserunning made the difference when the game was still on the line, especially in the fifth inning, when it was still 1-1 between Rangers starter Brandon McCarthy and the Yankees' Chien-Ming Wang.

That's when Laird led off with a drive into the right-center-field gap, and when center fielder Johnny Damon couldn't play the carom off the wall cleanly, Laird raced all the way to third for a triple. That was the first sign that Laird wasn't going to let his bruised hip bother him.

"It's still kind of sore, but I just decided I was going to go out and play," Laird said. "I don't know if I'm a fast runner, but I'm a little above average. I know I'm not a slug. If I can take an extra base, I'm going to do it."

His speed certainly fooled Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

Laird stayed at third as Lofton grounded sharply to shortstop, but he then broke home on Brad Wilkerson's slow chopper to Rodriguez, who was playing in. Rodriguez got the ball quickly to catcher Jorge Posada, and Laird was caught in a rundown. Posada got the ball back to Rodriguez, who then had to chase down Laird as he broke back to home plate.

But Laird was just a step ahead of Rodriguez and dove into the plate just ahead of the tag for the run.

"Rundowns are tough; teams usually run it pretty good," Laird said. "The only thing I was trying to do was stay alive so that Wilkie could reach second. Then, I saw a chance to score and took it."

After the 14-2 rout was over, Rodriguez said, "I have no idea what happened. It was such a long time ago."

But Washington said it was a crucial play in the game.

"We scored that run, and all of a sudden, the runs started flowing," Washington said. "They get him out there, it might have stopped the runs from rolling and might have stopped our momentum."

Wilkerson made it to second base while the Yankees were fooling with Laird, and he scored on Teixeira's single. An RBI single by Sosa, his second of the game, gave the Rangers a 4-1 lead.

That would be enough runs for McCarthy and three relievers. McCarthy went 5 1/3 innings, holding the Yankees to one run on five hits for his second straight victory. He has allowed just two runs in his last 11 1/3 innings.

"I was just being aggressive, throwing it as hard as I can, trusting it and throwing it in the area that I wanted to throw it," McCarthy said. "I was just concentrating on throwing quality strikes."

The Rangers had one anxious moment in the sixth inning, when Derek Jeter doubled with one out and Rodriguez walked. But Frank Francisco took over and got Hideki Matsui to fly out and Jorge Posada to pop out to end the threat.

Then came Laird and another three-run rally. This time, he led off the seventh by beating out an infield single, then went from first to third on Lofton's single to right. He scored on Wilkerson's sacrifice fly before doubles by Teixeira and Hank Blalock allowed the Rangers to break open the game. The 14 runs were the most they've scored this season.

"It was a lot of fun out there today," Wilkerson said. "We were due against them and due to swing the bats the way we did today."

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