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Francisco seals Rangers' scrappy win

Francisco seals Rangers' scrappy win

ARLINGTON -- Kevin Millwood battled for eight innings and 121 pitches. He allowed 10 hits and two walks, but held the opposition 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

"He was the story of the night," third baseman Michael Young said.

When it was over, Millwood was able to relax on the bench and enjoy the rest of the show in the Rangers' 5-4 victory on Tuesday night at the Ballpark in Arlington. He was able to watch closer Frank Francisco do his thing.

On a night when chaos seemed to reign supreme, Francisco brought order to the whole affair by putting this one away quickly. He needed only six pitches to retire the Athletics in order and preserve the Rangers' fourth victory in the last five nights, allowing them to open the homestand with a hard-fought win and move back to .500 on the season.

"That was big-time right there by Frankie," manager Ron Washington said. "That was really big-time."

"It was great," Millwood said. "He was doing what he has been doing all year, coming in there and throwing quality strikes. He's enjoying his job, and everybody is confident when he comes in."

The Rangers did not need disorder from the bullpen, not after they returned home from Baltimore at 3 a.m. after a Monday night game at Camden Yards, not after Millwood's gritty performance and not when they had to scratch and claw for whatever runs the Athletics were willing to give them.

"We weren't at our best," Washington said. "We were on fumes."

The Rangers wanted this to end quickly after they had squeezed five runs out of five hits, five walks and two huge Oakland errors. Only one of those runs was earned. One error by shortstop Orlando Cabrera led to three runs in the sixth. The second error by first baseman Jason Giambi set up Nelson Cruz's go-ahead single in the eighth.

The Rangers also knew they were lucky to be in position to win this one anyway, considering the Athletics lost no less than two infielders and two pitchers to injuries at some point in the game.

"We stole this one," outfielder Marlon Byrd said.

Athletics starter Brett Anderson was on a roll before developing a blister on his left index finger and being forced out of the game in the sixth inning. Reliever Santiago Casilla, third baseman Nomar Garciaparra and second baseman Mark Ellis were all forced out of the game with calf injuries.

"We definitely caught some breaks tonight," Young said.

The Rangers' only casualty was first baseman Chris Davis, who was ejected in the sixth inning for arguing a called third strike by home-plate umpire Eric Cooper.

"I thought it was a ball," Davis said. "I didn't blow up just for anything. I didn't blow up to make him look like an idiot. It's a tie game, we have a rally going, emotions are high ... you can't give a pitcher a pitch like that. I didn't expect to get thrown out. I didn't think I said enough to be thrown out."

He was. It was that kind of night. Francisco put an end to it quickly.

Three pitches to Jack Hannahan produced a pop-out to second baseman Ian Kinsler. Ryan Sweeney, who had taken Millwood deep earlier, grounded out on the first pitch. Cabrera took a ball, then flied out to left.

Game over.

"He gets the job done," outfielder Andruw Jones said. "He pounds the strike zone and goes right after them. It was huge. He was focused."

He is what the Rangers need.

"I don't know of any team that doesn't have a shut-down guy like that and gets to the playoffs," Byrd said. "You need a guy that when he comes in, you feel the game is over. When Frankie comes into the game for us, it's a sigh of relief."

Francisco, who was not available to the media after the game, became the closer in the final week of August last season when Eddie Guardado was traded to the Twins. The Rangers felt comfortable giving him the job, because he had developed his breaking ball and a changeup to go with a power arm. The team felt he had become a complete pitcher.

Francisco is reinforcing their confidence. Since Aug. 22, the right-hander is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA with five walks and 30 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings over 23 appearances. He is 11-for-11 in save opportunities, and opponents are hitting .113 off him. Francisco has six saves this season, including five in the last eight games.

"I've always had confidence in him since last September and he basically closed down the whole month," Kinsler said. "I know September is different than April and May, but you can tell his maturity and presence on the mound has made him a closer."

He was exactly that on 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.

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