Padilla, power prevail against Braves

Padilla, power prevail vs. Braves

ARLINGTON -- Two cleanup hitters batted with one out and the bases loaded at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Tuesday night.

One had a two-run single that was the biggest hit in a four-run rally. The other had a sacrifice fly when his team needed much more than that against a pitcher who was clearly in trouble for the first and only time of the night.

Milton Bradley had the two-run single, Mark Teixeira had the sacrifice fly and the outcome of those two plate appearances turned out to be crucial as the Rangers opened their three-game set against the Braves with a 7-5 victory.

The two at-bats were also a reminder of Bradley's importance to the Rangers this season. When the Rangers traded Teixeira on July 31, they were left with a void in the cleanup spot that they had trouble filling over the final two months of the season.

Bradley, at manager Ron Washington's recommendation, was signed in the offseason to help fill that void and he continues to do an outstanding job. After going 1-for-2 with two RBIs on Tuesday, Bradley is now hitting .330 with 15 home runs and 48 RBIs on the season, while leading the American League in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

It boils down to this: Because of Bradley, Rangers cleanup hitters have a combined .585 slugging percentage this season, the highest in the AL. Last season, even with Teixeira there part of the time, Rangers cleanup hitters had a combined .459 slugging percentage, the fifth lowest in the league.

"Milton has been huge," Washington said. "When I said he was going to be our cleanup hitter, I said it before we knew he would even be on the field [because of his knee problems], but I knew it was because of the type of at-bats he was going to have. When you're a cleanup hitter, you have to be able to handle breaking stuff, because they're going to try and make you chase. Milton doesn't chase. He gives you a good at-bat every time."

The only problem was Bradley suffered a slight strain of his right quadriceps muscle on his third-inning single and had to leave the game. He is day-to-day.

"He tried to stay in the game, but I told him it wasn't worth it," Washington said.

Bradley's hit helped the Rangers jump out to a 5-0 lead. They held on behind Vicente Padilla, who pitched six innings to get his ninth victory of the season. C.J. Wilson closed it out with his 15th save to get the Rangers back to the .500 mark on the season.

Padilla outpitched Tim Hudson, the Braves right-hander who once pitched for the Athletics, but hasn't had much success against AL since getting traded to Atlanta. Hudson gave up six runs in 4 1/3 innings and is now 0-10 with a 7.82 ERA in 12 Interleague starts since joining the Braves. He is also 2-5 with a 6.79 ERA in nine starts in his career at The Ballpark.

"He's one of the best," outfielder David Murphy said. "He's effective on both sides of the plate and he throws a lot of different pitches. We know how good he is, but our offense is pretty good, and we battled him."

Hudson struck out the first two batters he faced before Josh Hamilton gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead with his 19th home run. That's where it stood in the bottom of the third, when Gerald Laird and Ramon Vazquez led off with singles and Ian Kinsler, after falling behind 1-2, drew a walk to load the bases.

Michael Young forced Kinsler with a grounder to second to score one run, Hamilton walked and Bradley, after working the count full, lined one into right-center to drive home two. Murphy's sacrifice fly scored Hamilton and it was 5-0.

"Just a great at-bat by Milton," Murphy said. "That was just one of many good at-bats we had tonight."

Padilla, showing what Washington said was his best stuff all year, retired the first 13 batters he faced and had a one-hitter and a 6-0 lead going into the sixth. But Omar Infante led off the inning with a home run and the Braves then loaded the bases with one out on a couple of walks and a dropped fly ball by Hamilton.

That brought up Teixeira for what clearly would be one of the big at-bats of the evening, and Padilla knew it.

"I had to throw my pitches right there because it was a tough situation," Padilla said. "I wanted to make him hit my pitches."

Padilla went with the fastball. The first one missed. Teixeira swung at the second one and hit a routine fly ball to center.

"I wish I could have gotten the bat head out a little more and then maybe that lazy fly ball could have maybe driven in more runs," Teixeira said. "But he's a good pitcher. That guy has good stuff. He's their ace right now, and he proved it tonight."

One run scored on the play, but Brian McCann flied out to end the inning and the Rangers escaped with a 6-2 lead.

"When he hit that sacrifice fly, I was happy," Washington said. "Because we all know what Tex can do, and I'm glad he didn't do that. I'll give him the sacrifice fly and the one run."

Teixeira still has 50 RBIs on the season, two more than Bradley. But the Rangers still found somebody to fill that huge void, and he did so again Tuesday night.

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