The most beautiful hit of the weekend to me wasn’t any of the hits that led to Nelson Cruz‘ 6 RBI night Friday. It wasn’t the David Murphy grand salami Friday. Or the home runs by Yorvit Torrealba or Josh Hamilton on Sunday. No, much like I’ve always loved the runt of the litter, the most beautiful hit of the weekend was a bad bunt.
In the 7th inning of a 5-5 game, Elvis Andrus decided to sacrifice Ian Kinsler to second to put the go-ahead run into scoring position. Andrus got underneath the ball, popping the bunt in the air. Miraculously, the bunt went just far enough to elude three Angels hoping to catch it for the first out, landed on the infield and, with a nice little piece of backspin, died hugging the first base line. Fair ball. Base hit. End of the night for Jered Weaver. Three more runs would come around to score before the 7th ended and the Rangers won the rubber game of the three game set 8-5, extending their AL West lead to three games with 37 to go.
It was a badly needed win and an improbable one, considering the Halos had staked their ace to a 4-1 lead with runs in each of the first three innings against Colby Lewis. A 3-run lead for Weaver usually means a W in the book for Anaheim. This time, pitching on only three days rest for the first time in his career, Weaver couldn’t hold it, giving up three runs in the 3rd to tie the game at four.
The Angels came back to make it 5-4 in their favor, where it remained until the fateful 7th inning. What was weird was how everything changed in the span of four pitches. The first pitch of the inning was a David Murphy double down the first base line. The second pitch a line single up the middle by Ian Kinsler. The inning’s third pitch was the aforementioned Andrus bunt single, ending Weaver’s night. And Scott Downs’ first pitch to Josh Hamilton made it to the outfield for a single, plating Kinsler with the go-ahead and, as it turned out, winning run.
The game was not without its setbacks. Nelson Cruz, Friday’s star, aggravated a hamstring in the 7th inning rally legging out a double and could be lost to the DL for awhile. Cruz had three DL trips in 2010 and one already in 2011 due to hamstring problems. Fortunately, Adrian Beltre starts a rehab assignment today and could return to the Texas line-up on Thursday.
The middle game of the set was easily CJ Wilson‘s worst pitching performance of the year and perhaps his career. Wilson gave up a career high five home runs as the Angels took the 8-4 decision. Only three days rest didn’t bother Angels starter Ervin Santana, four allowed just four hits, albeit in giving up four runs.
Game 1 was all Rangers, as Derek Holland pitched well and Dan Haren didn’t. Cruz, demoted to the 7 hole in the line-up, came through with 6 RBI and Murphy’s grand slam chased Haren as Texas bashed their way to an 11-1 lead before LA made it look more interesting with 6 runs in the last two innings.
Despite putting one more game of space between themselves and the 2nd place Angels, the next ten games are still a key to securing a playoff spot: three at home against the resurgent Rays, followed by three in Fenway Park against the Red Sox and another three at the Trop in Tampa. Off day today to get some much-needed rest before the Tampa series.
Still not optimistic about a return to the World Series, but feeling a little better about the chances of being in the playoffs again.