Rangers continue pursuit of home field against Mariners
Having secured their second straight American League West field advantage in the postseason's opening round as they play the middle game series with the Seattle Mariners.
Last night's 5-3 victory, coupled with a 3-1 loss by the Angels, put the Rangers in the playoffs for a second straight season after they lost to the Giants in last year's World Series. Texas has captured two straight division titles for the first time since 1998-99.
"It feels great simply because it's so hard to repeat," said Texas manager Ron Washington.
Adrian Beltre and Craig Gentry both hit two-run homers, with Gentry's coming in the form of an inside-the-park home run. Beltre's 29th longball of the season gave him 100 RBI, his second straight year reaching triple digits.
Matt Harrison won his fourth straight start after scattering three hits over six solid innings. The left-hander gave up all three runs in his final frame of work and Neftali Feliz pitched around a two-out walk in the ninth to earn his 30th save of the season.
Texas has won nine of its last 11 games and is tied with Detroit for the second-best record in the American League.
Seattle rookie Anthony Vasquez surrendered the home runs by Beltre and Gentry as well as a solo blast to Josh Hamilton among seven hits in 3 1/3 innings.
The Mariners got three runs in the sixth on an RBI single by Ichiro Suzuki and sacrifice flies from Dustin Ackley and Miguel Olivo before losing their second straight. They also fell to 4-13 versus Texas this season.
"When you're playing teams down the stretch that are in it, our guys are going to get better each and everyday just from having those experiences," said Seattle manager Eric Wedge.
In preparing for the playoffs, the Rangers will try to beat reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez for the fourth time in as many meetings this year. Hernandez has a 3.74 earned run average in the three previous meetings.
The right-hander went 13-12 with a 2.27 ERA in 34 starts a year ago to capture the Cy Young and is 14-13 with a 3.32 ERA in 32 games in 2011. The 25-year-old Hernandez has dropped his last two outings, including Sunday versus the Rangers. He was charged with three runs on nine hits over seven innings in that defeat, yielding a two-run homer to Beltre in the fourth frame.
"It was a sinker down and it caught more of the plate than he wanted it to, but other that he was real good again," Wedge said of Hernandez. "He had to fight through that last inning, but he did. Three runs in seven innings, he did a good job for us."
The Rangers will start Alexi Ogando for the first time since Sept. 15, when he won for the first time in six appearances by hurling six scoreless innings of two-hit ball. The right-hander walked a pair and struck out four, surviving a 39-pitch second frame unscathed by fanning a pair of batters with the bases loaded.
"Competitive juices. He was in trouble and worked his way out of it," Washington said. "From that point on, he threw four pretty good innings."
The 27-year-old Ogando is 13-8 with a 3.58 ERA in 29 games this year and will likely pitch out of the bullpen in the playoffs. He is 1-0 with a 3.94 ERA in his career versus the Mariners, though he was drilled for six runs on eight hits over 2 2/3 innings of a no-decision the last time he faced them on Aug. 9.