"I never doubted the character of my guys, not one bit," Washington said. "In this game, if you keep playing hard, believe in yourself and do the right thing, good things are going to happen and maybe things are starting to turn for us."
The last-place Rangers would still gladly change places with the Tigers, who are tied for first in the American League Central. But, the Rangers are starting to feel positively giddy after winning for the ninth time in the last 12 games.
"That one was sweet," said designated hitter Sammy Sosa, who had a key two-out single in the three-run ninth that won it for the Rangers. "It's exciting, we're playing [well] right now. It took so long for us to play this way, but guys are having fun and they know what they have to do. We're feeling comfortable and playing great."
Nobody is more comfortable than Marlon Byrd, who is easily the biggest reason why the Rangers have been able to put this winning stretch together, even though Mark Teixeira is on the disabled list.
A Triple-A player in the month of April, Byrd is threatening to be the American League Player of the Month in June, and his magical run continued on Tuesday with a two-run triple in the ninth that gave the Rangers the lead.
"Marlon, since he came up here, has been a great addition," Washington said. "He's certainly [had] a lot of clutch hits. I can't describe how important he has been for us with all the injuries."
Ramon Vazquez drove him in with a single, and Byrd is now hitting .410 in June with 17 runs scored and 18 RBIs.
"It's been unbelievable," Byrd said. "I came here with a great idea of what I wanted to do, not worry about hitting home runs, but just hit line drives and everything is falling into place."
The Rangers won on a night when they had to bring long reliever Willie Eyre out of the bullpen to face the highest scoring offense in the Major Leagues. He was up to the task in his first Major League start, even if a wicked line drive kept him from fulfilling his goal of pitching five innings.
A couple of walks led to two runs in the first inning, but Eyre still held the Tigers to three runs in 4 2/3 innings. He left after getting hit on the back of his pitching hand by Placido Polanco's line drive, a ball that he still managed to catch.
"Maybe a few butterflies in the first inning but I felt good out there," Eyre said. "I got a little tired in the heat when my pitch count got up there in the fifth. But to help out and keep it close was really exciting. I wanted to pitch five innings and I almost made it."
Eyre left after getting hit. The hand was numb at first and Eyre said he had to have Gerald Laird take his glove off for him. But he was fine after the game with only a bruise and some stitch marks. He is an option to start on Sunday against the Boston Red Sox, but Washington hasn't committed to that yet.
"We haven't thought that far ahead," Washington said. "We were just trying to get through this one."
They did. They trailed 3-1 after Eyre left but took the lead in the seventh against the Tigers bullpen. Brad Wilkerson's three-run home run off of left-handed reliever Tim Byrdak gave the Rangers a 4-3 lead and a couple of Tigers errors plus Sosa's RBI double made it 6-3.
Otsuka couldn't hold it. The first sign of trouble was walking Polanco to start the inning. It's the first time Otsuka has walked a leadoff hitter in an inning all year. He had only walked seven in 29 2/3 innings coming into the game, but he walked two in that inning, and the Tigers tied it up on a two-run single by Sean Casey and Craig Monroe's sacrifice fly.
But Tigers closer Todd Jones had just as much trouble in the top of the ninth. He walked Michael Young with two out and Sosa singled to left. That brought up Byrd, who lined one past right-fielder Magglio Ordonez to give the Rangers the lead. Vazquez followed with a single and Eric Gagne closed it down in the ninth.
When it was over, Otsuka was the winning pitcher.
"That's why we're a team," Washington said. "He had control problem but his team came back and picked him up. That was a great ballgame, I'm just so happy when it's over that we had the most runs."
Certainly happier than the first-place manager.