So Millwood responded by retiring 15 straight Cleveland batters after giving up those first four runs. When the Indians loaded the bases on him with two outs in the sixth, he responded again by getting a crucial strikeout.
It was just one of those nights when the Rangers' veterans refused to let Texas lose as Millwood (4-3) outpitched Sabathia (3-8) in a 9-4 Texas win at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Michael Young and Milton Bradley pitched in with respective 3-for-5 and 3-for-4 efforts, including a solo home run apiece.
With the victory, Texas climbed back to .500 at 31-31 and scored at least eight runs for the sixth straight game. The Rangers have never before put together such a streak. In fact, it's only the ninth time since 1956 a team has had such a productive stretch of games.
"I knew we'd score some runs," manager Ron Washington said. "Then after that first inning, Millwood stood in there and fought and competed. He did everything we needed and he needed himself to do."
Millwood got into the seventh inning, but exited after facing one batter. Despite needing 26 pitches to escape the first inning, he threw just 99 in all.
In his six-plus innings of work, Millwood struck out six and allowed four runs on nine hits. For the second straight start, Millwood didn't walk a batter.
But in the first inning, it appeared Millwood wouldn't even sniff the seventh inning.
Grady Sizemore led off the game with a double to left-center field and, after Millwood struck out Ben Francisco looking, the Indians reeled off four straight hits to put Millwood in an early 4-0 hole.
But with one out and a runner on third, Millwood buckled down, inducing back-to-back groundouts.
From there, Millwood worked perfect second, third, fourth and fifth innings and retired the leadoff man in the sixth, giving him 15 straight outs. Millwood's ability to recover after the first inning gave his offense ample time to erase the deficit.
"He has a bigger heart than the guy he's facing and he's done that his whole career," said Bradley of Millwood.
The big break in the second for Texas came on a Ramon Vazquez single to right with Gerald Laird and Chris Shelton on base. Cleveland right fielder Shin-soo Choo let the ball squirt through his legs and Vazquez advanced to third on the error while Laird and Shelton crossed the plate to bring Texas within one.
That play was a microcosm of Choo's night. His groundout in the first ended the Cleveland rally. Then in the sixth, Millwood struck Choo out swinging with two outs and the bases loaded to end the threat. In going 0-for-4, Choo made the third out in three different innings.
"I knew the guy was a good fastball hitter, but that's what I needed to throw," said Millwood of Choo's sixth inning strikeout.
The Rangers tied the game in the third with a two-out single through the left side by Bradley that drove in Young, who got the inning started with a double off the right-field wall, which extended his hitting streak to a Major League-best 21 games.
As for Ian Kinsler's 19-game hitting streak, it ended on Thursday night in an 0-for-4 performance. However, his walk in the sixth inning was instrumental in the Rangers overtaking the Indians on the scoreboard.
With two out and Laird on third, Kinsler drew a walk to keep the inning going and give Young a chance to drive Laird home. Young then legged out an infield single as Laird came home and put Texas up, 5-4.
Once Sabathia exited after the sixth, it was open season on the Cleveland bullpen.
Bradley led off the seventh with his 13th home run of the season off Rafael Betancourt. Betancourt was charged with two more runs in the inning as the Rangers took an 8-4 lead.
"He's one of my best friends in the world, and it was fun facing him," said Sabathia of Bradley. "He had two hits [off me]. One of them he didn't hit all that hard, and I'm going to give him grief about it. But he's a good hitter."
Betancourt parted in favor of Edward Mujica, who got out of the seventh, but served up a home run to Young to lead off the eighth inning. Young's sixth home run of the season gave Texas a cozy, 9-4 lead that its bullpen didn't squander.
Eddie Guardado, Frank Francisco, Joaquin Benoit and Jamey Wright combined to pitch three shutout innings and clinch the victory.
"It worked out perfectly," Washington said. "We had it set up for C.J. [Wilson], but we ended up putting more runs on the board."