ARLINGTON, Texas -- A Rangers team that has struggled against the good teams this season made a nice comeback to beat the Tampa Bay Rays, who own the majors' best record. The Rangers are now one-third through the season and are on pace to win 87 games, the same number as last season.
Oakland's 5-4 loss to Minnesota in extra innings Friday put the Rangers back up by a game in the AL West.
A few thoughts:
* What a big fourth inning for the Rangers. After falling behind, 4-0, they came all the way back. They got seven runs in the fourth inning. Three key singles up the middle and a three-RBI double by Vladimir Guerrero were the difference. They knocked starter Wade Davis out of the game with one out gone in the inning. In came Andy Sonnanstine, who gave up the long double to Guerrero (Vlad was thrown out at third trying to stretch it to a double). It was the most runs the Rays allowed in one inning this season. It was also the most runs and hits (7 runs, 7 hits) in one inning since last September against Tampa Bay here in Arlington (11 runs, 9 hits). More on some of the individual efforts late in this post.
* Tough second inning for C.J. Wilson. He breezed through the first in 12 pitches, but needed 42 to get through the second. Two walks certainly hurt. But he also got some tough luck. Ian Kinsler had an error on a ground ball that looked like a double play with the bases loaded. Instead, no one was out and the Rays got a chance to put up four runs eventually. The big two-RBI single from Carl Crawford was a bouncer the other way that found a hole. Still, Wilson didn't have the control we saw from him earlier this season and that inning was an example. He was also very slow in the inning, something he normally doesn't do.
* But to his credit, he bounced back with a quick third and fourth and then got a bunch of run support. And when the Rangers needed the shutdown inning in the fifth after that big fourth, Wilson got a 1-2-3 inning to the 2-3-4 hitters. Then, as he neared 100 pitches, he struggled with consecutive walks in the sixth to load the bases with no outs. Darren O'Day came in at that point. Wilson left the mound with a shrug, clearly not happy with how his start ended. Matt Harrison came in after O'Day got one batter and ended up giving up one run on a ground ball that was nearlya double play to end the inning. He walked B.J. Upton and then struck out Carl Crawford on a 3-2 pitch. Tampa Bay got only one run despite loading the bases with no outs.
* We've talked the last few days about Justin Smoak and I become more and more convinced he's figuring things out. He went after a high fastball in the second and blasted it to the upper deck in right field. He then followed with two more infied hits for the first three-hit game of his career. Smoak's swing looks good and he's showing good plate discipline. Maybe he's found the approach he needs. He was 7-for-25 on the road trip and kept that going on Friday.
* Josh Hamilton matched his home run total from last year on Friday, hitting a solo shot on the first pitch of the fourth. It brought the Rangers within one run after falling behind 4-0 in the second. Hamilton hit the homer off a righty. He was hitting .317 against right-handers coming into the game (and just .234 against lefties). Hamilton hits well on the first pitch. He was 10-for-33 on a 0-0 count before the homer. He also had a double in that same fourth inning.
* 3B Michael Young knows what to do with men on base and in scoring position. He singled up the middle to drive in two runs to give the Rangers the lead in the fourth. He is now 4-for-7 with 10 RBIs with runners in scoring position this season.
* OF Julio Borbon had a nice night with three hits -- two singles up the middle and in infield hit on a bunt. He's quietly starting to hit. Borbon has seven hits in his last five games. He looks to me like he's not trying to do too much and going with the pitches much better than he did earlier in the season.
* Former Ranger Hank Blalock pinch hit in the sixth and stayed in the game in right field. It was the first time he's played the outfield in his professional career (majors or minors). The Tampa Bay guys tell me he's been working out there. He did get a nice hand when he was introduced at home plate in the fifth.
* Don't underestimate Darren Oliver's value to this team. He's the most overworked in a very overworked bullpen, but is productive. He came in with runners at first and second with two outs in a three-run game in the seventh and got a key strikeout.
* Washington was thrown out for the third time this season after arguing a call at second base in the eighth inning. Borbon thought he was safe and was called out on a steal attempt. The replays were close, but I think the umpire got it right. Jackie Moore took over the duties in Washington's absence.
* Frank Francisco got through a 1-2-3 eighth with two strikeouts. It was a solid performance. Neftali Feliz hit two batters with two outs, but got the final one for the save.