ARLINGTON, Texas -- The 32,146 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Tuesday knew the seventh inning was the Rangers' best chance at producing a comeback. After Geovany Soto's two-run homer cut the deficit to 5-3, Ian Kinsler walked and Elvis Andrus singled.
Josh Hamilton came to the plate representing the go-ahead run. And Baltimore manager Buck Showalter quickly trotted to the mound to put Pedro Strop in to face Hamilton. Showalter wasn't going to leave Darren O'Day in the game at that point, knowing Hamilton hit one of his historic four home runs in Baltimore off him back in May.
Hamilton, with the crowd on its feet, got ahead 2-0 and then 3-1 in the count. But he took a check swing on a 3-1 slider in the dirt and went around. Strop went back to the slider and hung one. Hamilton turned on it and drove it deep to right field, but it went foul into the club level.
"Hamilton just got around on it just a hair and pulled it foul," manager Ron Washington said. "If he stays through that ball, on the inside of that ball, a little bit more, we win that ballgame."
Strop was certainly worried about it.
“I didn’t want to throw it for a strike,” Strop said to the Baltimore media. “When I heard the sound off the bat, I thought he got me. Then I saw that it was going foul.”
Strop went back to the slider and said he wanted to bury it and if Hamilton swung, great. If not, he'd load the bases and take his chances with Adrian Beltre, a right-handed hitter. Hamilton did swing at the 3-2 slider in the dirt, ending the inning.
"It was a good battle," Washington said. "Pedro won it."
Hamilton ended up with three strikeouts on an 0-for-4 night. He wasn't the only one who struggled against Baltimore starter Chris Tillman, who gave up three runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts and one walk in the quality start. The Rangers only had three at-bats with runners in scoring position (and one hit) as Tillman continued his success in Arlington. He out-pitched Cliff Lee in Lee's debut for the Rangers in 2010. Tillman now as a 1.93 ERA in two career starts (three earned runs in 14 innings) at Rangers Ballpark.