ARLINGTON – In the previous eight times Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Juan Francisco faced Rangers pitcher Matt Garza, Francisco failed to register a hit off the right-hander.
In the past, Francisco feebly drew a walk and struck out five times against the Rangers’ midsummer acquisition.
Francisco launched two home runs off Garza and it seemed his two deep blasts were going to be enough to hand Texas its second straight loss.
A string of walks and key singles in the bottom of the seventh nullified Francisco’s two homers
The Rangers avoided back-to-back losses with a 5-4 victory on Wednesday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler singled in the game-tying and game-winning runs in the bottom of the seventh inning.
“To come back like the way we have and the way we did tonight, it was just huge,” Garza said.
With the win, the Rangers maintained its lead over Oakland in the AL West. And after the A's lost 2-1 to the Houston Astros, the Texas lead swelled to two games.
Francisco’s two home runs and a strong start by Tyler Thornburg enabled the Brewers to jump out to a 4-2 lead after 6 1/2 innings.
Then, as the Brewers went to their bullpen, Rangers manager Ron Washington called his reserves off the bench.
With runners on first and second base in the bottom of the seventh, Washington said he contemplated bringing in Adam Rosales to drop a sacrifice bunt and advance the runners. Instead, he sent Jeff Baker to the plate.
“He showed some patience and didn’t chase anything out of the zone,” Washington said.” [Craig] Gentry did the same thing. So did [Jurickson] Profar. It set us up to get the runs that we needed to win the ballgame.”
Gentry and Baker’s substitutions into the contest were justified when Kinsler stepped up to the plate with the Rangers only trailing by a run after an RBI single by shortstop Elvis Andrus.
Kinsler walked up to the plate in the seventh inning and knew what to expect from Brewers reliever John Axford.
Having faced Axford in the past, Kinsler said he was expecting Axford to coerce him into hitting a ground ball. Instead, Axford got behind in the pitch count and Kinsler roped a ball into left field to put the Rangers ahead.
“Kinsler can hit it out of the ballpark, but he stayed sharp in that situation and did what he needed to do to get a base hit and let the guys on the base paths run,” Washington said.
Profar strolled across home plate with his right hand triumphantly extended halfway, and Baker slid across home plate for good measure.
The bullpen combination of Neal Cotts, Jason Frasor, Tanner Scheppers and Joe Nathan held Milwaukee scoreless after Garza allowed four earned runs in 5 2/3 innings.
Kinsler went 2-for-4 and Andrus went 2-for-3 with 2 RBIs, strengthening the top of the Rangers’ lineup a night after Texas was held to one run in a loss.
“Last night was a little tough for us,” Kinsler said. “We couldn’t get really get anything going. But tonight we were back to the same old stuff and we were having good at-bats, and that’s the key – as long as you turning in quality at-bats over and over again, with our lineup, sooner or later we’re going to end up scoring some runs.”
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