Versatile offense helps Roy Oswalt get win

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Roy Oswalt gave up a career-high 13 hits. He allowed five runs in six innings and had trouble finishing off hitters. Yet he was a winner, too.

That last part is a big reason why Oswalt held out for the first few months of the season with his eye on Texas. The idea of pitching behind a powerful lineup appealed to Oswalt, and the veteran pitcher certainly benefited from it in Wednesday’s 13-9 victory over the Detroit Tigers.

“I played on some teams before that didn’t score a whole lot,” said Oswalt, who was leading 10-5 when he left the game after six innings. “Coming over here, I knew the lineup they had. You look at 1 through 9 and anybody can beat you with the long ball. Most of the guys hit all parts of the field and are not just pull hitters. I knew the American League was known for scoring a few runs, but to have a lineup like this with all these guys hitting is pretty dangerous.”

That was the case Wednesday, as the Rangers’ offense did many of the things that made it so potent the first six weeks of the season.

David Murphy had two home runs and five RBIs, contributing from the seven-hole. Leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler showed off his versatility, hitting a home run in the third and scoring from second on an RBI bunt. When the Tigers made a defensive mistake -- and they made a few -- the Rangers made them pay.

“We expect to score runs,” Kinsler said. “It seems like every night we do what we need to do to win games, but offensively we feel like we should be producing runs every night. What that number is, I don’t know. But we should give enough run support for our pitchers to win games.

“It’s getting more consistent, as far as scoring in more innings and continuing to put pressure on teams. I think we were doing that before, but we weren’t able to push guys across the plate and now we’re pushing guys across the plate. It goes in cycles. I think driving the ball goes in cycles. We’re hitting more doubles than we were previously. We were getting singles and getting guys in scoring position but not getting the big hit. Now we’re doing that.”

All of that helped Oswalt survive despite an inability to finish off hitters. Command wasn’t the issue for Oswalt against the Tigers. But the veteran was throwing too many pitches in the hitting zone and giving up too many two-strike hits, something he wasn't pleased with in his first start, either.

“Anytime you put some early runs on the board, it gives you a little bit of a cushion to attack hitters more,” Oswalt said. “I think [Wednesday] I went a little overboard trying to throw too many strikes.”

Oswalt said he went inside, watched some video and discovered he had thrown 30 pitches at one point with 26 of them strikes. So he altered his approach after the second inning, trying to stay away from the strike zone early in hopes of getting some swings and misses.

“I still left too many in the zone,” Oswalt said.

The one pitch he’d like back the most was an 0-2 fastball to Jhonny Peralta with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth. Oswalt wanted to throw the pitch high and inside and did so, but not quite inside enough. Peralta was able to hit it down the third-base line for a double.

Still, Oswalt did what the Rangers have asked of him: He pitched six innings and left with his team in front. He's the fist Rangers pitcher to allow 13 hits and win since Doc Medich on Sept. 7, 1980 at Milwaukee. Heck, Jimmy Carter was still in office then. Oswalt gave up nine hits in his first outing with Texas, meaning he's won two straight starts after allowing at least nine in each. He's only the second pitcher in the big leagues since 2011 to do that (San Diego's Aaron Harang is the other) and the first Texas pitcher to do it since Adam Eaton in 2006.

Oswalt can thank his offense for helping making sure the hits didn't cost him a win.

"I'm not seeing what we're capable of yet, but we're getting there,” manager Ron Washington said of the offense. “We're just going to keep battling and keep grinding. We needed all the runs we got. That's what they've been doing all year. What we need, they've been doing it. I know we still got some ways to go, but I'm very pleased with what I'm seeing. Are we out of it [the offensive slump]? Let us play 10 to 15 more games and keep putting up runs and I can answer that. But we're going to keep doing what we've got to do to win a ballgame, and we did that tonight."

Oswalt was grateful for the help and had only one stat on his mind when the game was over.

“The end result is more of what I look at,” Oswalt said. “Hits and stuff is great for the guys in the fantasy leagues, but wins is the most important thing in my mind, the most important number.”

He’s got two of those in two starts and the Rangers have 14 wins in their past 18 games, including six straight series wins.