Michael Young has done it again.
With one swing of the bat, Young laced a walkoff RBI single past Orioles third baseman Chris Gomez in the bottom of the 10th inning on Friday night, and the Texas Rangers defeated Baltimore 4-3.
It's Young's second walkoff single of the season, with the first capping the unforgettable "Cordero Meltdown" game on June 9th. The Rangers are now 4-2 in July, after losing Thursday night's series finale with the Angels by a 5-2 margin. I'd rather not discuss that one.
Of course, the real story of the night was the suddenly unstoppable Kameron Loe, who threw six brilliant shutout innings and racked up his 5th consecutive quality start. "The Snake" surrendered five hits and three walks during his 103 pitch outing, striking out three. He'll face either the Angels or Athletics on the road in his next start after the All-Star break.
After three fly ball outs in the 1st inning, Loe recorded twelve straight groundball outs, and worked his way out of several big jams to preserve an early 1-0 Rangers lead. A two out, two run blast to right field by Brad Wilkerson in the 6th inning provided a 3-0 cushion for Kam, but a Chris Gomez double to lead off the 7th inning summoned Ron Washington from the dugout. As he left the mound, Loe received a loud standing ovation from the home crowd.
C.J. Wilson came on in relief - unfortunately, that's where the trouble began. After a quick Brandon Fahey groundout, Wilson issued back-to-back walks to Brian Roberts and Jay Payton, loading the bases. C.J. then threw a wild pitch to the backstop, prompting Gomez to scramble home from 3rd base.
However, a perfect ricochet to catcher Adam Melhuse allowed him to grab the ball and race to the plate, tagging Gomez out. TV replays showed that home plate umpire Brian Knight blew the call, as Gomez slid in beneath the tag, and Knight has actually admitted as much:
"I've seen the replay and I see that I missed the call," Knight said. "On that kind of play, I was fighting to get the best position I could get and I called what I saw at the moment. That's pretty much all I can say about it."
Granted, it was a real bang-bang play, and it was close enough that I thought Gomez was out before seeing the replay, so I can't really say too much. Despite getting a huge break on the blown call, Nick Markakis hit a two run double down the right field line on an 0-2 pitch, and cut the Texas lead to 3-2. C.J. finally got yanked in favor of Frankie Francisco, who got the final out of the 7th inning and pitched a perfect 8th.
Eric Gagne came on for the save in the 9th inning, having gone 11 for 11 in save situations in 2007 with a 1.07 ERA. After inducing a quick groundout from Chris Gomez to begin the inning, Brandon Fahey singled to right field, and Brian Roberts followed with an RBI double to right center field that tied the game. Gagne allowed a third hit in the inning, but managed to avoid letting another run cross the plate.
Not only was it Gagne's first blown save of the season, but it was his first since August 18th, 2004, when he gave up four runs to the Florida Marlins. Needless to say, Wilson and Gagne both imploding on the same night reminded me way too much of that 12-9 loss to the Astros on June 24th, when Texas came back to tie the game twice only to lose it in extra innings anyway.
And with that thought creeping around in the back of my mind, Texas went to extra frames. Joaquin Benoit pitched a perfect 10th inning, giving the Rangers another crack at winning the game after Brad Wilkerson narrowly missed a walkoff home run in the bottom of the 9th. Wilkerson's drive appeared to be gone off the bat, and Brad raised his fist in triumph for a moment, but the ball hooked about 15 feet to the right of the foul pole.
Travis Metcalf led off with a single against reliever Paul Shuey, Jerry Hairston Jr. laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move him along to second, and Ramon Vazquez drew a walk. With men on 1st and 2nd and one out, the stage was set for Michael Young's heroics.
And boy, did he ever deliver.
Akinori Otsuka was not available on Friday night, as he continues to nurse his sore right arm, and it sounds like he will be held out of action until after the All-Star break. MLB.com's Drew Davidson says he could return on Sunday, but I'd rather not take the chance of rushing him back too soon.
Davidson also reports that Vicente Padilla's "light" bullpen session on Friday went off without a hitch, and will throw a bullpen session Sunday morning before two rehab starts at Frisco, on July 12th and 17th. His earliest possible return to the rotation would be on July 22nd against Cleveland.
Bench coach Art Howe served a one game suspension Friday night for "leaving the dugout to argue with an umpire," after a verbal altercation with home plate umpire John Hirschbeck on Tuesday night over a bunt attempt that Howe thought was a foul tip. MLB rules state that leaving the dugout after being ejected warrants an automatic suspension; apparently, Howe wasn't aware of this rule, and I can't say I was either. Art was also fined an undisclosed amount, but Ron Washington paid the fine.
2007 first round pick Blake Beaven may not sign until at least August 10th, according to an e-mail from his mother. The deadline is August 15th, but I still think a deal should get done here without an issue. Beaven grew up as a Rangers fan in the Metroplex, and a couple hundred thousand dollars either way isn't going to be a dealbreaker.
T.R. Sullivan has a curious note in his latest entry at "Postcards from Elysian Fields," saying that that minor league hitting coordinator Mike Boulanger has helped Nelson Cruz open up his stance during his stint at Triple-A Oklahoma, allowing him to square up the ball better. Cruz went 2 for 4 tonight against Nashville, and is now hitting an outrageous .367/.434/.765 in 98 AB for the Redhawks. Perhaps Andy Hawkins isn't the only Rangers minor league coach that deserves a promotion?
The DMN's Evan Grant offers a humorous "midseason judgment" of the Rangers, with a bit of a Biblical flair to it. I can't really describe it; it's something you'll have to see for yourself.
Brandon McCarthy will face Erik Bedard on Saturday, as the Rangers look to follow up on Friday night's walkoff dramatics.
Despite not collecting an extra base hit since June 15th, Michael Young still manages to find ways to get the job done.
Then again, he had a little help from the "Snake" as well.
Saturday, July 7th Game Preview
Baltimore Orioles ( 37-48 ) at Texas Rangers ( 37-49 )
Erik Bedard ( 6-4, 3.67 ERA ) vs. Brandon McCarthy ( 4-5, 6.17 ERA )
7:35 PM CST in Arlington, Texas ( Rangers Ballpark in Arlington )
TV: KDFI/My27 | Radio: KRLD 1080 AM