ARLINGTON (AP) – With the innings starting to stack up and a harsh storm approaching, Mitch Moreland took a mighty whack at the first pitch of the bottom of the 11th inning.
Before the ball even landed deep in the upper deck in right field, teammates were climbing over the dugout rails to join Moreland in celebrating the Texas Rangers’ 5-4 victory over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.
The giddiness was justified. Heavy winds blew debris across the field by the time Moreland crossed home plate and before he was even out of the shower, sheets of rain slapped across the field. Had the game not ended when it did, it could’ve been quite a long night, or a suspended game to be resumed Wednesday.
The win itself was nice for Texas, as were milestones such as the first game-ending hit of Moreland’s blossoming career, and Japanese reliever Yoshinori Tateyama (1-0) earning his first career victory. The Rangers were also glad to find a way to win on a night when ace C.J. Wilson lacked his best stuff, and the offense relied mostly on solo homers.
Moreland’s blast was his 10th of the year and his second long homer in as many games. Houston rookie reliever Enerio del Rosario (0-2) took the loss.
“My ultimate goal was to try to get on base and get something started, and I was able to end it all on one swing,” said Moreland, who couldn’t remember having hit another game-ending homer in pro ball.
Josh Hamilton of Texas tied it at 4 with a homer leading off the eighth, keeping Astros prized prospect Jordan Lyles from getting his first major-league win.
Hamilton went 2 for 5, keeping up his incredible success in interleague play. Over his last 17 games against the National League, not counting the World Series, he is 36 for 75 (.480 average) with six homers and 21 RBIs.
Texas also got solo homers from Michael Young and Nelson Cruz. The only manufactured run was when Endy Chavez tripled home Taylor Teagarden in the seventh inning.
The Astros, still without leading slugger Hunter Pence (elbow), lost their third straight game. Houston has dropped six of eight, 10 of 13 and 14 of 18.
The top of Houston’s lineup did all it could to pull this one out, as Jason Bourgeois, Michael Bourn and Jeff Keppinger combined for nine of the club’s 12 hits. Each had three, with Bourn and Keppinger both driving in two runs.
“There were a lot of good things to come out of it, but you saw how it ended,” Astros manager Brad Mills said.
Lyles, who at 20 is the youngest player in the majors, allowed three runs and seven hits and struck out six in seven innings. He fanned the last batter he faced, with runners on the corners, to protect a 4-3 lead.
“In my other starts they put up some runs early,” Lyles said. “I didn’t want to go out there and feel my way through it. I wanted to carry it from the bullpen and attack from strike one on.”
Sergio Escalona — likely in to face only Hamilton — gave up the tying homer on his fourth pitch as Hamilton swatted it an estimated 401 feet into the seats in right.
Escalona hadn’t allowed a run in 13 games, spanning 7 2-3 innings, and had never given up a homer in 35 previous career appearances. Lefties were batting only .162 against him over his career. It was Houston’s 15th blown save, most in the majors.
Wilson allowed a season-high 11 hits and four runs in 6 2-3 innings. He struck out four.
“He was fighting the whole time he was out there,” manager Ron Washington said.
Tateyama pitched one scoreless inning, walking one. It was his first career walk, coming on the 58th batter he faced in the majors.
Del Rosario gave up one run and two hits over 2 1-3 innings, with three strikeouts.
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