ARLINGTON, Texas -- Elvis Andrus never glanced at third-base coach Dave Anderson as he rounded third with two outs in the 11th and Josh Hamilton racing up the first-base line. The shortstop didn't need any kind of sign. He already had made up his mind.
As soon as Andrus heard the ball crack off Hamilton's bat toward short, he was on the move. And he never stopped, sprinting down the line and sliding into home plate to cap a remarkable Rangers comeback, an 8-7 win over the Cleveland Indians on Friday.
Hamilton was safe at first base on the infield hit, sliding head first before the throw arrived. By the time the Indians realized Andrus was heading for home, it was too late. Andrus popped up from his slide and jumped into Michael Young's waiting arms. The players mobbed Andrus and the fans remaining from the 37,842 in attendance cranked up the noise.
It was a play similar to a few the Rangers made in Game 5 of the ALDS against Tampa Bay last season, when they raced around the bases on infield singles to score runs early for Cliff Lee. They ended up winning that elimination game and wound up in the World Series for the time in club history.
Just after Friday's win, Rangers president and CEO Nolan Ryan came into the clubhouse with a huge grin on his face and shook hands with several of the players. That's not something he does all the time.
"Anytime you win a game like that it's big," Ryan said. "It's the thing they've always done is battle, battle, battle. It was good."
The winning play served as redemption for Andrus, who booted a routine ground ball to extend the second inning. If Andrus makes the play, Derek Holland contains the damage. But the next batter, Carlos Santana, hit a two-RBI double and manager Ron Washington had to lift his starter after only 1 2/3 innings. The bullpen came in and did the job. Scott Feldman, Yoshinori Tateyama, Mark Lowe, Mike Adams and Neftali Feliz combined to allow one run on six hits in 9 1/3 innings.
That gave the Rangers time to engineer a comeback. They sliced into the lead with two runs in the sixth and headed into the bottom of the ninth against Cleveland closer Chris Perez down 7-5. With two outs, Hamilton hit a single to right to extend the inning for Young. The veteran hitter got a 2-0 count and was just trying to drive something.
"I just wanted to hit something hard," Young said. "Their 'pen has been doing a great job all season long and they have a really quality closer, so I was just trying to be as short as I could to the ball. I wasn't trying to get too big. I want to hit a ball hard and give Nellie [Nelson Cruz] a shot."
The ball flew out and Young floated around the bases. The tying blast gave the Rangers the momentum heading into extra innings. Adams and Feliz combined to keep the Indians from scoring, setting up Andrus' play.
"As soon as I saw the ball was hit, I thought he'd be safe, so I wanted to take my chances," Andrus said.
Hamilton, meanwhile, turned to look behind him to see what was happening at home plate.
"As soon as I slid, I turned to look because I saw the first baseman come up and throw and I saw the throw didn't get him," Hamilton said. "So I started beating the ground in excitement. I knew that if they made the throw to first that he was going to keep going. I'm just glad I was safe and he was too."
It was the Rangers' largest comeback since Aug. 13, 2010, against Boston, a game in which Hamilton did just about everything to help his team get a victory. It was the club's fourth win this season when trailing in the ninth inning. Texas hadn't won a game when trailing by multiple runs in the ninth inning since May 14, 2009, vs. Seattle. Texas now has five walk-off wins this season and in each of the past three, they trailed after eight innings.