ATLANTA (AP) – The Texas Rangers were swept in their first series at Turner Field eight years ago, so they played like a different team in their return to Atlanta.
“The Texas Globetrotters?” second baseman Ian Kinsler asked. “Is that what we are now?”
The Rangers made some fancy defensive plays and Josh Hamilton had four hits, including a two-run homer, to beat the Atlanta Braves 6-2 on Friday night and protect their lead in the AL West.
Colby Lewis and Nelson Cruz shook off slumps in the win as Texas, which began the night with a half-game lead over Seattle in the AL West, snapped a five-game losing streak.
Cruz, who had been 0 for 18 with 10 strikeouts in his last five games, drove in three runs with two doubles.
Lewis (6-7) recovered after two ugly losses in which he gave up a combined 15 runs on 17 hits in only 4 2-3 innings. The right-hander gave up two runs on five hits in 6 2-3 innings while matching his career high with 10 strikeouts.
The Rangers also won with defensive flash.
With two outs in the fifth, Lewis ran toward the first-base line to pick up a weak grounder by Jason Heyward. After making the scoop, Lewis made a backhanded flip of the ball from his glove to first baseman Young to throw out Heyward, who slammed down his helmet in disgust.
“That was just a crazy play,” Kinsler said. “I don’t know how he got it out. He’s got a big pitcher’s glove. It’s not like the ball is coming out of there easy.”
Lewis called the play “just a shot that you kind of take and it worked out. It turned out well.”
Third baseman Adrian Beltre made a bid to challenge Lewis for the top defensive play of the game in the sixth inning. Sprinting toward left field with his back to the infield, Beltre made an over-the-shoulder catch of a foul pop-up hit by Eric Hinske.
“I didn’t think he had a chance,” Kinsler said.
Rangers manager Ron Washington said his team needed the defense to shake its losing streak.
“You know you needed everything that happened and defense was a big part of it,” Washington said.
“Beltre going down the line, I’ve never seen a third baseman go after a ball the way he did.”
Washington said the scoop and flip by Lewis was about the pitcher’s creativity.
“You don’t teach that,” Washington said.
The Rangers made another unusual play in the seventh. With Jordan Schafer on first base and two outs, Heyward hit a grounder to Beltre, who threw toward second base in hopes of forcing Schafer. Kinsler was late covering the bad and caught the throw behind Schafer on the first-base side of the bad.
Unable to beat Schafer to second base, Kinsler instead threw out Heyward at first base.
Hamilton drove in three runs, including a run-scoring single in the ninth.
“I felt good at the plate,” Hamilton said. “I felt like I had a plan for what they were going to do. … I felt I was in a good place.”
Lewis gave up homers to Brian McCann in the fourth and Freddie Freeman in the sixth.
Right-hander Randall Delgado (0-1), recalled from Double-A Mississippi, gave up seven hits and four runs, three earned. He was knocked out without recording an out in the Rangers’ four-run fifth, when Hamilton hit his fifth homer.
“It’s a different world,” Delgado said. “At the same time, it’s the same game, baseball.”
Delgado, 21, made his major league debut after the Braves placed right-hander Tommy Hanson on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his right shoulder.
Cruz snapped his hitless streak with his second-inning double to right field to drive in Michael Young, who also reached on a double. Cruz had a two-run double off Cristhian Martinez in the fifth.
The Braves were without third baseman Chipper Jones, who left Thursday night’s game against the Mets with a strained adductor muscle in his right leg.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Jones felt discomfort when he took swings in the batting cage on Friday and may return Sunday or Monday.
“I’m not going to push him,” Gonzalez said.
Neftali Feliz, acquired by the Rangers from Atlanta in the seven-player trade in 2007 that sent Mark Teixeira to the Braves, pitched a perfect ninth.
NOTES: Lewis had 10 strikeouts for the second time this season and eighth time in his career. … The Rangers were swept by the Braves in three games in Atlanta in 2003 in their only previous series at Turner Field. The teams are playing for the first time since the Rangers won two of three at Texas on June 17-19, 2008. … The Braves optioned INF Brandon Hicks to Triple-A Gwinnett. RHP Jairo Asencio, recalled from Gwinnett, gave up one run on three hits in two innings.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)