ARLINGTON -- When Tommy Hunter pitches, he hears a phrase in his head: "It's got to be someone, why not you?" Jerry Narron, a consultant for the Rangers, put that phrase in Hunter's head. Hunter followed Narron's advice as he shut down the Tigers' offense in the Rangers' 5-2 victory on Monday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. "Good job by Tommy Hunter," manager Ron Washington said. "His second pitch was a home run, but he settled down from there. We knew he could handle the baseball and manipulate it. He's got four pitches."More
Perhaps the most important of those pitches came in the fifth inning. Detroit had the bases loaded with two outs. Miguel Cabrera, one of the most dangerous hitters in the game, was at the plate and had a 3-0 count. Hunter responded with a high fastball and a high slider that were both called for strikes to load the count. Cabrera fouled a pitch off before swinging and missing at a high fastball to end the inning. Hunter showed his emotions after recording that out. "I think it was a combination of he pitched very well and we didn't swing too well," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. "We've done this for months, to be honest with you. We've swung at balls and taken strikes." Hunter wasn't trying to do too much with Cabrera at the plate. "I was trying to throw strikes," Hunter said. "I gotta minimize the damage. It was fun. That was fun, puts a smile on your face. It changed the game." It certainly did. The Rangers were down, 1-0, after Curtis Granderson led off the game with a home run. Nelson Cruz responded with a blast to left-center that went an estimated 451 feet to tie the game, 1-1. Eleven of Cruz's career-high 24 home runs this season have either tied the game (four) or given the Rangers the lead (seven). The Rangers' rally continued the next inning when Elvis Andrus hit a lead-off double. Ian Kinsler couldn't advance him with a sacrifice bunt, but Michael Young singled to center field on a play that racked up a pair of errors for the Tigers. Granderson committed the first when his throw missed the cutoff man and trickled through the infield, which allowed Andrus to score. Tigers starting pitcher Armando Galarraga, a former member of the Rangers, attempted to make an off-balance throw to home, but the ball squirted out of his hand, allowing Young to advance to second for the second error on the play. David Murphy walked and both runners scored on a Hank Blalock double down the right-field line two batters later to push the Rangers ahead, 4-2. Young hit a solo home run for the Rangers' final run. It was his third hit of the night, and the third consecutive night he had recorded three hits. He became the fourth player in the Major Leagues to do so this season and just the first American League player in 2009. The last to accomplish this feat for the Rangers was Alfonso Soriano, who did it from May 4-7, 2005. No Rangers player has ever had four consecutive three-hit games. Hunter has now won three straight decisions over his past four starts. Since being called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City, he has gone 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA. All four of his quality starts this season have come over that span. Hunter threw a career-high seven innings on 104 pitches, which tied his career high. He has thrown six or more innings in four of his six starts this season. The win was the first for the Rangers against the Tigers this season. "We had many opportunities to win against them in Detroit," Washington said. "Those guys don't quit. I remember four or five games in Detroit we would have won. They snatched them from us. Baseball does that." The Rangers have now won five straight games at home and improved to 33-19 there this season, second-best in team history. They are also 7-3 since the All-Star break.
Daniel Paulling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less