ANAHEIM -- The turning point came when a six-time All-Star hustled down the line on what could have been an inning-ending high chopper to shortstop. There were two outs in the fifth, the Rangers trailed by three and Michael Young was hitless in two at-bats on the night. Anything less than full speed, and Young would have been thrown out at first base, the inning would have been over and John Lackey would have taken his shutout into the sixth. But Young beat out the infield hit and thus started a six-run rally that carried the Rangers to an 8-5 victory over the Angels on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium. The teams are once again tied for first place in the American League West.
Derek Holland, with some huge help from Jason Jennings and C.J. Wilson late in the game, picked up the victory in relief of starter Dustin Nippert, who allowed three runs in 3 2/3 innings. "I think it all started when Michael beat out the infield hit," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "When that inning was over, I told Michael, 'Your infield hit got us started. Way to hustle.' That's why he's a pro." Lackey was in control until Young hit the chopper off the plate and high over the mound. Angels shortstop Erick Aybar charged hard and made a quick throw, but Young barely beat it out for a hit. "I just think it's the right way to play," Young said. "You hit the ball on the ground, and you run as fast as you can. I hit it off the plate, so I knew there was a chance, but they have a great infield, so I knew it was going to be bang-bang. We definitely caught a break there on a hit that's not the way you draw it up." Said Lackey, "He's a guy I've faced probably 100 times. It's always a tough at-bat. He's a professional hitter. He gives you a tough at-bat, plays the game the right way. He's a guy I'd pay to see. Erick did everything he could on that play. Young just beat it." That's when it began to unravel, and afterward, the Angels knew who started it all. "Michael Young, this guy's a baseball player in every aspect," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "That's how he plays the game. You expect that from him. We just didn't close it out." Josh Hamilton then lined his third single of the game and Andruw Jones, getting a start at DH against a right-handed pitcher, jumped on a first-pitch slider and drove it over the left-center-field fence for a three-run homer. In his last 15 games, Jones is hitting .222 with 13 strikeouts, but he also has six home runs and 15 RBIs. "I was looking for something over the plate, and he threw one down but over the middle," Jones said. "Everybody came through for us tonight. After I got that big hit, everybody seemed to relax, and we got things rolling." Hank Blalock, who also had a three-hit night, kept the inning alive with a double to left. Lackey, growing visibly more frustrated with each batter, then walked Marlon Byrd and David Murphy to load the bases. A wild pitch scored one run to give the Rangers the lead, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia followed with a two-run single to right to make it 6-3. That also ended Lackey's night. The night, however, was far from over for Rangers pitchers. With the Rally Monkey jumping all over the scoreboard, the Angels mounted two serious threats in the sixth and seventh innings. But Jennings and Wilson were able to do what Lackey could not. They shut the inning down before it got out of hand. Jennings took over in the seventh with one on and two outs. He hit one batter and walked two others to force in a run, making it 6-4. But he composed himself and struck out Bobby Abreu to end the inning. "That was the biggest moment of the game," Young said. "I'm not going to be at my best every night, but at least I was able to make a pitch when I had to," Jennings said. "Right there, if he hits a ball in the gap, they take the lead, so I had to keep the ball out of the middle of the plate. But I got a couple of fastballs inside on him to take it to two strikes and then got him on a slider." It was one of two big moments for the Rangers' bullpen. The other came after Wilson, taking over for Darren O'Day, entered the game with runners first and second with one out in the seventh. Kendry Morales grounded out slowly to Young at third, moving the runners to second and third, and Maicer Izturis walked to load the bases. But Wilson left them that way by getting Mike Napoli on a fly to right. "The wolf-pack mentality was really awesome tonight," Wilson said. "We knew that Dustin had a limited pitch count, so everybody was on high alert. But we came up big because everybody did their job. It was great to get out of those jams." Doing so led to victory. But it all started with one simple infield hit.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.