CLEVELAND -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia showed up in the fifth inning and took it all in from the Rangers dugout, standing between pitchers Kevin Millwood and Kameron Loe. "It was pretty neat," Saltalamacchia said. "It was different. I've been with the Braves since '03 and this is a change of scenery. But these guys have been unbelievable, everybody came up and introduced themselves and made me feel welcome." He seemed pretty excited even though he is going from a contender to a last-place team. But for one night at least in Cleveland, the Rangers' future looked pretty good simply because some of the trades they have made.
No, not the ones they made on Tuesday with the Atlanta Braves and the Boston Red Sox, but two were that made last year with the Milwaukee Brewers and the Chicago White Sox. Brandon McCarthy picked up his first victory since May 20 with 6 2/3 strong innings and Nelson Cruz hit his third home run in three games as the Rangers defeated the Cleveland Indians, 3-1, at Jacobs Field. The biggest impact Tuesday's trades had on the game was Eric Gagne was not around to save the game in the ninth inning. Instead, manager Ron Washington let C.J. Wilson handle the closer role and he set down five straight hitters to earn his first save of the season. "It's awesome," Wilson said. "It was definitely cool, especially in front of a hostile home crowd." Wilson wasn't supposed to get the save. Washington had Joaquin Benoit ready to go in the ninth. He wanted Wilson to get Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner, the first two hitters up in the inning, and then he was going to wave in Benoit. But Wilson dispatched Martinez on a fly ball to right and Hafner on a popup to second baseman Ian Kinsler, so Washington let him stay in there. Wilson got Ryan Garko on a broken-bat soft line drive to Kinsler to end the game. "It might have been a big deal for him but it was a really big deal for the team," Washington said. "We needed three outs and those guys [the Indians] have made a habit of making those last three outs a problem." The Indians have won five games this year despite being behind after the eighth inning, but Wilson upheld the Rangers' honor of having won all 41 games this year when they have led after eight innings. He saved it for McCarthy, who allowed just one run on four hits and three walks. He threw just 90 pitches in his longest outing of the season. He threw 100 pitches over five innings in his last start but was able to cut that down by throwing first-pitch strikes and getting first-pitch outs. "They were also hacking and first-pitch outs help get your pitch count down," McCarthy said. "It's good to pitch late in the game. I don't know if I've gotten into the seventh inning at all this year." This was the first time and he is now 5-7 with a 5.18 ERA on the year after being acquired from the Chicago White Sox in the offseason. "He was outstanding," Washington said. "Usually his big innings are the third, fourth and fifth, when he piles up his pitches. But he had good placement with his fastball and put his changeup in good spots and his work load didn't pile up." McCarthy found himself in a scoreless tie with Indians starter Fausto Carmona until the fifth inning. That's when Cruz jumped on a 1-0 pitch and crushed it 446 feet to dead center for a home run. Cruz, acquired a year ago from the Milwaukee Brewers, was 2-for-3 on the night and is now 5-for-10 with three home runs and six RBIs in three games since being recalled from Triple-A on Friday. Cruz, using his open stance, also had two walks and has yet to strike out. He had 10 walks and 42 strikeouts in his first 42 games before being sent down. "That's indicative that he's seeing the ball well," Washington said. "Right now he looks more relaxed and looks more confident. If they throw the ball in an area where he can do something with it, he'll put a good swing on it. He's going to get a chance over the next two months." That's what the last two months are about and that was made clearer on Tuesday when Mark Teixeira was traded to the Braves and Gagne was traded to the Red Sox. The Rangers are clearly looking to see who can help them in 2008 and they are looking for signs that some of these many trades that they have made will eventually pay off. On Tuesday night they did. "We still have a lot of talent on this team," McCarthy said. "If we pitch well and a do the little things we need to do, we'll win more games than we lose. We just need to keep our momentum and keep doing the things we'll be doing. We'll be fine."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.