LOS ANGELES (AP) – Texas manager Ron Washington gave Nelson Cruz the green light on 3-0, then watched the slugger put reliever Bobby Cassevah’s sinker into orbit.
Cruz’s tape-measure drive in the seventh inning helped Matt Harrison win his third straight start as the Rangers beat the Los Angeles Angels 7-3 on Sunday to avoid a three-game sweep.
“It’s fun to see how far it goes, but the main thing the situation it came in,” Cruz said. “I didn’t watch where it landed, but I watched it go far enough.”
Using a 34-ounce Louisville Slugger model No. R-13 that measures 35 inches, Cruz reached the championship flag poles in left-center. The ball was estimated to have traveled 484 feet, making it the longest home run in the majors this season, according to the Angels based on information from ESPN Home Run Tracker.
But teammate Josh Hamilton was quite skeptical.
“That’s not right. When we come back here, we’re going to bring a range-finder and we’re going to get an accurate measurement on that ball,” said Hamilton, the major leagues’ home run leader. “That was the farthest ball I’ve ever seen hit. When you think about it, unless the wall is lying — is says 387 to the wall, and 100 feet past that is 487. But the ball went another 100 feet past that. So I can’t wait to come back here.”
Cassevah took it all in stride.
“Butch came out before that pitch, so we knew he was swinging,” the right-hander said, referring to pitching coach Mike Butcher. “I was trying to throw a strike. But the sinker didn’t sink, it was right over the middle, and he got all of it. But a home run’s a home run to me, no matter how far they go. The hitter wants to see how far it goes. I don’t. I just go on to the next guy.”
Cruz said Washington also turned him loose on a 3-0 count his previous time up. He took the pitch out of the strike zone before a flyout to left field.
“He’s capable with one swing of the bat of doing exactly what he did in the seventh inning, and he was in a good position,” Washington said. “I told the team last night that I wanted us to get back to being aggressive, so I had to be aggressive, too. I just gave him the 3-0 hack and he did a good job with it.”
The victory ended a four-game skid by the two-time defending AL champions, who lead the Angels by 4 1/2 games in the West. The clubs play 13 more times during the regular season.
“Two out of three is not bad against a good team like Texas because they’re the champs, so you’ve got to be happy with it,” Angels outfielder Torii Hunter said. “We know them, they know us, and it’s going to be a battle all year long. Right now we’re getting by. We’re playing a lot better baseball than we did the first six weeks, but we’re a lot better than what we’ve shown.”
Harrison (7-3) gave up three runs, four hits and three walks in 6 2-3 innings. The left-hander, who started Game 7 of last year’s World Series for the Rangers, departed after giving up a two-out single to Peter Bourjos and a walk to John Hester, who had homered his previous time up.
“The thing I was really upset about was the walks and the pitch to Hester,” Harrison said. “Other than that, I thought I threw the ball well, but I’m not satisfied. I want to keep getting better, keep grinding and keep learning from the mistakes I make in games. I just want to keep on this roll, get deep into games and give us a chance to win.”
Mike Trout greeted Alexi Ogando with an RBI single and Alberto Callaspo walked, loading the bases for Albert Pujols, who cracked his bat on an inning-ending flyout to left field. The Rangers put it away with RBI singles in the ninth by Mike Napoli and Elvis Andrus.
Dan Haren (3-6) threw 104 pitches over five innings, allowing two runs and seven hits. The two-time All-Star, who is winless in his last five starts against Texas, ended a career-best streak of 25 strikeouts without a walk when Napoli drew a base on balls in the fourth. The franchise record for most strikeouts without a walk is 30, by Frank Tanana in May 1976.
“He’s a really good pitcher, so one thing you have to do with guys like that is lock in on the strike zone,” Texas designated hitter Michael Young said. “We tried to be as aggressive in the strike zone as we could be and not do him any favors outside the zone. And I think we did a fairly good job of that.”
Hester’s first home run with the Angels was a solo shot to left-center that trimmed Texas’ lead to 3-2 in the sixth, and was the first given up by Harrison in his last four starts.
The Angels, who had won 10 of their previous 11, got on the board in the fifth after Mark Trumbo drew a leadoff walk and came all the way around on a two-out double to left by Erick Aybar — Los Angeles’ first hit off Harrison. Aybar was 1 for 14 against him prior to that at-bat.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)