Rangers drop Jays, gain in races

Rangers drop Jays, gain in races

ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Ron Washington moved rookie shortstop Elvis Andrus to the No. 2 spot in the lineup on Wednesday night.

Washington did so reluctantly. He liked having Andrus' speed at the bottom of the lineup. But the Rangers are in a pennant race, and they are without third baseman Michael Young because of a strained left hamstring.

So Andrus went into the No. 2 spot and delivered a two-run home run that helped carry the Rangers to 6-4 victory over the Blue Jays at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Texas trailed, 3-2, in the bottom of the fifth against Toronto starter Scott Richmond, but Julio Borbon drew a one-out walk and Andrus smashed a two-run home run into the left-field seats to put the Rangers ahead.

"He's a baseball player," Washington said. "He does what you ask him to do, and that home run was big. It was the biggest hit of the night."

Nelson Cruz also came up big with three hits on a night in which Josh Hamilton had to leave the game with tightness in his lower back. Cruz had a second-inning single to lead to the Rangers' first run, drove in Hamilton with an RBI single in the fourth and hit his 30th home run of the season in the sixth.

"Our young guys have turned into big boys quickly," outfielder Marlon Byrd said. "They're not afraid. They're having fun. We've had some adversity but we've seen this team come back before and take it to another level quickly and we did it tonight."

Cruz, in becoming the 16th player in club history to hit 30 home runs in a season, helped the Rangers move to within 2 1/2 games of the Red Sox in the American League Wild Card race and within 3 1/2 games of the Angels in the AL West.

"It's pretty fun being a part of a pennant race," Cruz said. "Everybody is watching every pitch and every play and it's going to continue like that until the end of the year."

This is also the time of the year when managers ask a little more from their players and Washington did on Wednesday night from a pair of relievers.

Tommy Hunter, after a rough first inning, pitched the Rangers into the seventh with a 6-4 lead. Then Washington called on C.J. Wilson and Frank Francisco to close it out.

Wilson was pitching for the fourth straight day and fifth time in the last six games but retired the side in order in the eighth. He also retired the first hitter in the ninth -- striking out Lyle Overbay -- before Francisco came in and got the final two outs of the night.

It was Francisco's third appearance in two nights. He saved both ends of the doubleheader on Tuesday, but Washington wasn't afraid to use him Wednesday. The Rangers are off on Thursday before opening up a three-game series against the Orioles on Friday.

"That's the part of the game where we need them and they're going to pitch," Washington said. "They're up for it. If Frankie is asking for the ball and feels good, we're going to give it to him. If we need to back off and give him an extra day, we will."

Francisco closed it out with his 22nd save and Hunter is now 7-3 with a 3.14 ERA in 13 starts.

There are only 29 games left, but the Rangers gained some significant ground the past two nights after the big loss on Monday. They gained 2 1/2 games on the Angels, who have lost two straight to the Mariners.

"We've got to keep going," Byrd said. "We can't be watching what the others are doing. We've got to keep winning games."

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