Rangers ride 11-run fifth inning to victory

Rangers ride 11-run fifth inning to victory

ARLINGTON -- Manager Ron Washington spoke before the game about why he's hoping the Rangers will be able to re-sign center fielder Marlon Byrd in the off-season.

Byrd then went out and reinforced his manager's faith by delivering one of the biggest hits of the season for the Rangers.

Byrd hit a grand slam with two outs in the fifth inning that set off an 11-run inning and helped carry the Rangers to a 15-3 victory over the Rays at the Rangers Ballpark on Saturday night.

The victory allowed the Rangers to move within five games of first place in the American League West after the Angels lost to the Athletics late Saturday night. The Rangers still need a miracle, but they have at least guaranteed themselves that they will not be mathematically eliminated when they open a four-game series with the Angels on Monday in Anaheim.

"It's still not too late," Byrd said. "Hopefully we can keep doing this the rest of the season and see what happens. We're still playing for something. We don't want to be this far back but it is what it is. We just have to keep looking forward."

The Rangers trailed 3-1 going into the fifth, but Byrd's two-out grand slam got them rolling and they ended up putting together their biggest inning of the season.

"Marlon stepped up huge for us and got us the lead and the momentum back," third baseman Chris Davis said. "That was huge for us, especially at that point of the game."

The 11 runs were the third most scored in the Majors in an inning this season. The Indians scored 14 runs on April 18 against the Yankees and the Red Sox scored 12 against Cleveland on May 7.

The runs were the most scored by the Rangers in one inning since 11 were tallied against the Diamondbacks on June 23, 1998, at the Ballpark in Arlington. The club record is 16 runs in one inning, set in a 26-7 victory over the Orioles on April 19, 1996.

The Rangers had 19 hits on the night including four by Davis, tying a career high. Ivan Rodriguez had three hits as both he and Davis had two in the 11-run fifth. Kevin Richardson replaced Rodriguez in the eighth and had a single, meaning the bottom two spots in the Rangers order were 8-for-10 on the night.

The No. 4 spot did pretty good too. Byrd was 2-for-3 with two home runs and five RBIs when Craig Gentry took over for him. Gentry doubled in the seventh for his first Major League hit.

"Marlon got us going and everybody just started to swing the bat after that," manager Ron Washington said. "Once again you see how important Marlon is and why we want him back. He's been getting big hits for us all year."

Kevin Millwood earned his second straight win, holding the Rays to three runs (two earned) over seven innings. He is now 12-10 with a 3.75 ERA on the season going into his final start on Thursday against the Angels.

The Rays almost applied a quick knockout to Millwood long before the Rangers bats got rolling. He started his night by giving up three straight singles to Jason Bartlett, Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria to load the bases, and then walked Ben Zobrist to force in a run.

Millwood, however, was able to cut it off right there. Pat Burrell hit a weak grounder back to the mound that Millwood was able to turn into a home-to-first double play. He then got Willie Aybar on a fly to center to end the threat.

"The first inning was huge for me," Millwood said. "To get out of that inning with just one, kept us in the game and allowed us to come back."

The Rangers trailed 3-1 going into the bottom of the fifth when Rodriguez led off with a single against Rays starter Matt Garza and went to third on a double by Davis. Julio Borbon followed with a walk, giving the Rangers bases loaded with nobody out.

Garza almost got out of it. Elvis Andrus lined out to Ben Zobrist in short right to keep Rodriguez pinned at third, and Josh Hamilton struck out. But Byrd, who had hit a solo home run in the fourth, kept the inning from going to waste by jumping on a first-pitch fastball and hitting it into the visitor's bullpen for a grand slam.

"When you have Garza on the mound and he's pitching like that, you're just looking to put the ball in play and hopefully find a hole," Byrd said.

"It's his hot zone, down, and the last home run was a fastball down and in, his nitro zone, and he just got it," Garza said.

That gave the Rangers a 5-3 lead and suddenly Garza couldn't get anybody out. Neither could reliever Jeff Bennett. Garza was gone after giving up a single to Hank Blalock and a walk to Kinsler. Bennett took over and the inning really took off.

David Murphy doubled to left-center and both runners came around to score. Rodriguez singled home Murphy with his second hit of the inning, making it 8-3. Singles by Davis and Borbon brought home Rodriguez. Andrus then drew a walk to load the bases for Hamilton, who doubled into the right-field corner to bring home the final three runs of the inning.

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