Middle of the order flexes its muscle

NEW YORK -- Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington doesn't want to envision a season without the big bats in his lineup.

He knows full well the value of having a middle of the lineup that can produce like it did Wednesday, when it drove in six runs in the Rangers’ 8-5 victory over New York at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

"Without those guys doing what they did and what they are capable of doing, it would be a long year," Washington said. "They pulled it out for us tonight."

The middle of the Rangers' order came through as the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 hitters in Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre and A.J. Pierzynski each drove in two runs. The team also received an RBI single from Lance Berkman out of the 6-hole, and the eight runs scored were tied for the second-most in June.

"What was nice was to see the middle of my order come up big," Washington said. "Starting with Beltre against [Andy] Pettitte and then Nelson gives us that two-run home run and Berkman picks up a couple. We need that."

Beltre and Pierzynski delivered the big hits early, as they helped the Rangers grab a 4-1 lead in the third inning. With the Yankees up 1-0 and the bases loaded with one out, Beltre barely missed a grand slam, smoking a double off the left-field wall that plated two and put Texas ahead for good. One batter later, Pierzynski hit a double to the gap in right center off Pettitte that gave the Rangers a 4-1 edge.

In the seventh, after the Yankees had sliced the lead to 4-3, Cruz provided insurance runs by crushing a curveball for a two-run shot that gave the Rangers a 6-3 lead. The Yankees scored two runs in the bottom of that frame, making Cruz's homer all the more important.

With his blast, Cruz is the fifth Ranger to have five consecutive seasons of at least 20 homers. The 20 homers pace the Rangers, as do his 57 RBIs.

"It's been good," Cruz said of his season. "You always think you can do more. It is what it is. At this point, to be able to drive in that many runs and hit that many homers -- I feel like I can do more damage and at least be more consistent."

As Cruz finds himself linked to MLB's investigation into the Biogenesis clinic, which could bring a 50-game suspension, it hasn't slowed down his production recently. Cruz is now hitting .324 with four homers and 13 RBIs in his past nine games, and 11 of his past 21 hits have been for extra bases.

Washington complimented Cruz for staying focused when it would be easy to be distracted.

"I think Nelson showed you the professional he is," Washington said. "I don't think I can even begin to state what's he thinking, because I'm not inside of his head. I haven't seen it affect him on the field, and that's the only thing that matters. That's the only thing I think that matters to his teammates, too."