ARLINGTON -- Quality starting pitching, solid defense and timely hitting are three things manager Ron Washington has preached the entire season. Wednesday night, Jamey Wright provided the pitching, Jerry Hairston the defense and Marlon Byrd the offense. It all resulted in a grind-it-out, pitchers' duel victory over the Angels, 4-2, before the second largest crowd of the season, 46,105, at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on a festive Fourth of July. "It's my type of game because it helps character," Washington said. "It helps you understand you don't have to blow people away to win. We're playing good baseball and it all starts with the pitching."
The Rangers have won at least two games in their last six series, the last three being against Detroit, Boston and the Angels. And, it has boiled down to getting quality outings from starters, namely Kameron Loe, Kevin Millwood and, on Wednesday, Wright. The Rangers are 13-6 in their last 19 games, with the starters posting an ERA of 4.78. Wright got through the first three innings without damage, but gave up two runs on four consecutive singles to start the fourth inning. With two on and no out, Wright worked out of the jam. Casey Kotchman grounded into a double play, followed by a Garret Anderson ground out, to escape with minimal damage. "[The double play] was the turning point of the game," Wright said. "That's what the sinker is for." Wright (2-2) relied on his sinker the entire night, drawing 11 groundouts. He went six innings allowing five hits and two runs in his first quality start of the season, earning the victory. In his last start, Wright threw 103 pitches through five innings, but needed just 76 to get through six Wednesday. "I feel like I'm getting better and better," Wright said after making his fourth start since coming off the disabled list. Wright handed the ball off to the Rangers bullpen, which has been reliable all season. C.J. Wilson, Joaquin Benoit and Eric Gagne closed out the game with three perfect innings. Benoit was impressive, replacing setup man Akinori Otsuka, who was unavailable with discomfort in his right forearm, striking out the side in the eighth. "Ben was up for the task, and that's what teams do -- pick each other up and that's what we're doing now, picking up Aki," Washington said. Gagne remained perfect in save opportunities, and is now 11-for-11. Hairston, who started at second base, provided stellar defense. He made a sliding stop in the third inning to rob Reggie Willits of a two-out single. Hairston dove to his left to grab the ball, then gunned it over to first sitting down to complete the 1-2-3 inning. "He started to throw and I was like, 'What are you doing?'" Wright said. "Then, he threw it right to him." Byrd continued his tear at the plate. He drove in the go-ahead run in the sixth with a single to center, scoring Sammy Sosa. Byrd went 3-for-3 with a double and a run scored, boosting his average to .383. "It starts with pitching and we're getting timely hitting," Byrd said. "All 25 guys are clicking, it doesn't matter who they bring up or send down. Things are going our way and we have confidence." Angels starter Jered Weaver left after Byrd's single, going five innings allowing three runs, all earned, on seven hits. The Rangers added an insurance run in the eighth, when Frank Catalanotto scored on a Gerald Laird sacrifice fly. "We've been playing good baseball for a couple weeks now, and you've really got to tip your hat to our pitchers," Laird said. "We know what this team has been capable of and we're starting to live up to that." The Rangers will try to carry the momentum into the series finale and sweep the division-leading Angels. The last sweep for Texas came in May against Toronto.
Drew Davison is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.