One of the biggest changes Ron Washington made to the Texas Rangers philosophy came on the basepaths. A franchise that used to play station-to-station baseball while waiting for the three-run HR now emphasizes taking the extra base and challenging defenses.
Some times -- Nelson Cruz thrown out trying to steal home on a wild pitch in the bottom of the second -- it doesn't work out.
Other times -- Adrian Beltre making a dead sprint from first to home on a Cruz double in the bottom of the tenth -- it does.
As Washington often says, that's the way baseball go.
On Saturday, in front of the 27th sellout crowd of the season on a beautiful summer night in Arlington, it went the Rangers way. With the score tied 3-3 in the tenth, Cruz hit a blistering line drive into the left-field corner off Kyle Waldrop that confused Josh Willingham just enough to get Beltre home, breaking a four-game losing streak with a 4-3 win.
Dropping Michael Young to 6th in the batting order paid immediate dividends, as the duo of Beltre and Cruz walloped the Twins pitching all night from the 4rth and 5th spots. Beltre, who went 3-5 with 1 HR, scored 3 runs and was driven home by Cruz twice, who went 3-5 with 2 RBI.
Young, meanwhile, continued to struggle, going 0-4 and grounding into a double play in the fourth. As Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News pointed out on Twitter, Young has now hit into as many double plays (6) as extra base hits since June 1.
Derek Holland, in his first start back since going on the disabled list on June 7, came out flat but rebounded for a solid effort. The hard-throwing left-hander finished with 6 hits and 3 earned runs allowed in 6 innings, with 4 strikeouts and 2 walks.
The drama racheted up after Holland's departure, with both the Rangers and the Twins blowing numerous chances to win the game in the late innings. Texas finished the game with 10 runners left on base to Minnesota's 7.
The Rangers kept the pressure on Minnesota's bullpen throughout, getting the bases loaded with two outs in the bottom of the 7th before Beltre grounded out to third. With two outs in the the 8th, David Murphy put himself in scoring position by drawing a walk and barely beating out Joe Mauer's throw to second on a steal.
While Murphy was stranded at second, the baseball gods eventually smiled on Texas, who had to sweat out Robbie Ross and Joe Nathan putting runners on base in the 8th, 9th and 10th.
Saturday night was the fifth walk-off hit of Cruz career, but it was the first that didn't leave the yard. These days, the Rangers on longer need to wait for the "boomstick", not when they are just as capable of winning games with small-ball as they are with the long-ball.