The Rangers, following a 76-minute rain delay and a bizarre start to the proceedings, ended up doing just that on a wet Saturday afternoon with a 5-3 victory over the Angels at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Texas, unperturbed by Lackey's two-pitches-and-out performance, has now won 16 of its past 21 games and have a 3 1/2 game lead over Los Angeles in the American League West.
"We came out to play baseball, and that's what we did," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "You have to ask Lackey about [the plunking that led to his ejection]. We just played good baseball. I don't know what that was all about."
Lackey, just off the disabled list, lasted just two pitches, but Rangers starter Vicente Padilla threw 115 over eight innings to earn his third victory of the season and second in a row. C.J. Wilson, with closer Frank Francisco on the disabled list, retired the side in order in the ninth for his second save in two games.
"Another great pitched game," Washington said, but he didn't stop there. "Another great defensive game ... timely hitting, great base-running, great execution. We did a little bit of everything."
The Rangers did, indeed -- especially on offense. They scored all five runs without an extra-base hit and despite going just 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
Instead, the team that leads the world in home runs took advantage of seven singles, two walks and the infamous hit-by-pitch while running the complete gamut of offensive manufacturing to score five runs in the first four innings.
"Those are the things we need to do to win ballgames," third baseman Michael Young said. "We're not going to hit four home runs every night, so we have to manufacture runs. We take pride in being a versatile offense."
After Kinsler got hit by a pitch, he stole second, went to third on Young's grounder to the right side and scored on the first of two sacrifice flies from Josh Hamilton. In the second inning, against Angels reliever Shane Loux, Marlon Byrd singled and Nelson Cruz walked. Loux then moved the runners up with a wild pitch, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia brought them home with a two-run single to right.
In the fourth, Saltalamacchia singled with one out and then moved to third when Elvis Andrus bounced a hit-and-run single up the middle. After Andrus stole second and Kinsler walked, Young singled home one run and Hamilton brought home another with his second sacrifice fly.
"That just tells you we're capable of playing baseball the way it's presented to us," Washington said. "I know our forte is hitting the ball out of the ballpark, but we did what we have to do today. Whatever the game presented, we took advantage of it."
Defensively, the Rangers did not commit an error for the seventh time in eight games and, for the third straight game, they turned three double plays. That proved big in helping Padilla get through eight innings, despite allowing 10 hits and three walks.
"I thought we had real good at-bats against [Padilla]," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Those guys played terrific defense behind him."
Padilla allowed 10 baserunners in the first four innings and just three singles over the next four innings. After Padilla struggled through four, Washington was unsure if he'd make it past the fifth. But Padilla suddenly found his groove, once the Rangers had given him a 5-3 lead in the bottom of the fourth.
"The first few innings, I didn't have my control and I wasn't making my pitches," Padilla said. "My first six pitches [in the game] were balls. That isn't me. But later in the game, I started throwing more strikes, and they were swinging at them."
Rangers starters, now 12-4 with a 3.48 combined ERA in their last 22 games, are averaging 6.6 innings per start over that span.
"Right now, we're getting pitching -- that's the biggest thing," Kinsler said. "Padilla pitched an unbelievable game. We're getting to the point where we expect it every day."