ARLINGTON (AP) – Joe Nathan and the Texas Rangers were on the verge of extending their division lead Thursday night.
Instead, the Cleveland Indians handed the dependable closer a rare blown save.
Jason Kipnis hit a two-run homer in the ninth inning off Nathan and the Indians snapped a five-game losing streak, beating the Rangers 5-4.
Nathan (2-4) had converted a club-record 31 straight save chances before the Indians erased a 4-2 deficit in the ninth. The right-hander’s only other blown save this season came April 11 against Seattle.
“You don’t worry about the streak,” Nathan said. “You just worry about getting the job done for your team.”
For the first time in more than five months, Nathan didn’t finish the job for the first-place Rangers.
Texas remained three games ahead of Oakland in the AL West after the Athletics lost to the Los Angeles Angels.
“I was disappointed we didn’t close it down,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “It’s been a long time since Joe Nathan hasn’t gotten us the last three outs we needed.”
Ezequiel Carrera homered leading off the ninth. Pinch-hitter Russ Canzler singled to bring up Kipnis.
The Cleveland second baseman lined a 1-0 pitch several rows deep into the seats in right.
After Kipnis’ drive, Carlos Santana doubled to chase Nathan without him recording an out.
“It’s special any time you do it,” Kipnis said. “You’re in the big leagues. Everybody’s a big name here.”
Scott Maine (1-0) got the final two outs in the eighth in his third appearance with the Indians this season. Chris Perez pitched the ninth for his 36th save in 40 tries, helping Cleveland avoid a three-game sweep.
“We’re trying to win every game we can,” Texas’ Adrian Beltre said. “But I’ll take two of three anytime.”
Texas slugger Josh Hamilton, who leads the majors with 41 home runs and 121 RBIs, missed the game with soreness in his left knee. Rookie Leonys Martin started in Hamilton’s place.
Hamilton left Wednesday night in the eighth inning and received an injection after the game. Washington said he doesn’t think it’s a serious injury and Hamilton is expected to be back in the lineup Friday.
Beltre got two hits as the designated hitter, a day after leaving early with a left shoulder injury. Beltre was not in the original lineup before he convinced Washington that he was healthy enough to play.
“He strong armed me,” Washington joked before the game.
The Rangers scored twice to take a 4-2 lead in the eighth with the help of two errors.
Elvis Andrus reached on shortstop Brent Lillibridge’s second throwing error of the game and scored when third baseman Jack Hannahan couldn’t handle Nelson Cruz’s grounder. Michael Young added an RBI single that gave the Rangers a two-run lead.
The Indians overcame three errors that led to three unearned runs.
“It was a great team win,” Cleveland first baseman Matt LaPorta said. “We had a long way to go. You can’t have errors like we did.”
LaPorta had three hits, including a two-run homer for the Indians, who are just 16-43 since the All-Star break.
The Indians finished a 10-game road trip with a 4-6 record.
Cleveland starter Zach McAllister allowed two runs and eight hits in six innings. The right-hander gave up seven runs over five innings in his previous start against the Rangers on Sept. 2.
Texas starter Derek Holland allowed seven hits and two runs. The Ohio native struck out seven and hasn’t lost since July 31.
Beltre singled with one out in the fourth, Cruz doubled and Young followed with an RBI single. Cruz scored on Lillibridge’s throwing error.
Vinny Rottino singled leading off the sixth and he came home on LaPorta’s shot that made it 2-all. It was LaPorta’s first home run of the season.
“I just made one pitch that I thought was a mistake,” Holland said. “It was my fault for not shutting them down while I could.”
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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