Rangers winning streak alive at five

Rangers winning streak alive at five

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers scoreless innings streak came to an end on Saturday night. So did the one put together by the bullpen.

The Rangers winning streak, though, is still alive and now at five.

On a night when starter Kevin Millwood pitched to just three batters, five Rangers relievers stepped up to hold the Athletics to four runs in 8 1/3 innings in a 6-4 victory at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Millwood had to leave the game because of what was called a "mild strain of the right groin muscle," but Josh Rupe, Frank Francisco, Eddie Guardado, Joaquin Benoit and C.J. Wilson combined to help the Rangers win for the 11th time in the last 15 games.

"Awesome," manager Ron Washington said of his relievers. "I mean awesome. You get good pitching, it gives you an opportunity to compete. That's all we want to do. It's not always about who is the best team, it's about who's playing the best. If we get good pitching, timely hitting and play better than the other team, well you never know."

The Rangers, with two straight wins over the Athletics and just one left to play, have also assured themselves of winning their fifth straight series. The last time the Rangers won five straight series was Aug. 23-Sept. 7, 2005.

"We're a better team than we've shown and we're going out and proving it," designated hitter Milton Bradley said after driving home three runs with a double and his fifth home run.

All six runs came across the plate after two were out. Getting runners home with two outs was a huge problem for the Rangers early in the season, but being able to do so lately has been a big part of the turnaround.

The Rangers consecutive scoreless-innings streak was snapped at 33 straight when second baseman Ian Kinsler's throwing error led to an unearned run. That also ended a 29-inning scoreless streak for the bullpen.

But the overall scoreless innings streak is still the second longest in club history (39, 1981) and longest in the Major Leagues since the 1995 Orioles closed out the season with five straight shutouts and a 45-inning scoreless streak. The 29-inning scoreless streak by the bullpen is the longest in Rangers history.

"It's been great," Francisco said. "This is what everybody has been expecting from us and everybody is doing their jobs."

More importantly than the recent scoreless streaks is the Rangers' pitching staff has a 3.24 ERA over the past 15 games.

"They have been the key to our turnaround," shortstop Michael Young said. "Any good team feeds off their pitching and they're doing great for us. We're really feeding off them."

Rupe, the first man out of the bullpen, earned his first victory of the season, but the best work may have been done by Francisco. He was asked to protect a 3-2 lead for 2 1/3 innings and did so by retiring seven of eight hitters faced, including five by strikeout. His fastball was clocked as high as 98 mph.

Bradley drove in the Rangers first three runs with an RBI double in the first and a two-run home run in the third. Josh Hamilton added an RBI single in the eighth inning and then the Rangers scored two in the eighth to take away a save situation from Wilson.

Millwood started the evening by getting Kurt Suzuki and Daric Barton on fly balls. He then threw three straight balls to Jack Cust and came up lame on the third one. Washington and pitching coach Mark Connor went to the mound and Millwood, after throwing one warmup pitch, couldn't continue.

"It was a great win and great that the bullpen did the job, but it stinks that they had to pitch 8 1/3 innings," Millwood said. "It means they had to throw more innings than they had to throw."

Millwood's departure started the parade of relievers, beginning with Rupe, who had pitched four scoreless innings in Millwood's previous start in Seattle. This time he struggled a little bit, allowing eight of 16 batters he faced to reach base.

But he got out of a bases loaded jam without a run scored in the second by getting Ryan Sweeney to hit into an inning-ending double play. That kept the scoreless streak alive, but only temporarily.

Cust doubled with two out in the third and Rupe then hit Frank Thomas with a 1-2 pitch. Emil Brown then hit a high chopper just over Rupe. Kinsler made a barehanded play behind the mound, but his throw to first was wide and went into the Rangers' dugout.

That scored Cust from second to end the scoreless streak. The Athletics, after Bradley's two-run home run gave the Rangers a 3-1 lead, also scored an earned run in the fourth on a single by Mark Ellis, a double by Jack Hannahan and Sweeney's sacrifice fly.

But third baseman German Duran saved a run with a terrific diving stop to his left and Francisco came in to get Barton on a grounder to end the threat. From that point on, the Rangers bullpen kept the game in control.

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