Tommy Hunter settled down after a slow start, pitching the Texas Rangers to a rare win against the Detroit Tigers.
Hunter tossed a career-high seven innings in his sixth major league start, Nelson Cruz and Michael Young homered, and the Rangers finally beat the AL Central-leading Tigers 5-2 on Monday night.
The Rangers lost the first six meetings with the Tigers this season to drop to 3-14 against them over the last three years before Hunter (3-1) led Texas to its seventh victory in eight games.
Curtis Granderson hit Hunter’s second pitch into the right-field seats for his 19th career leadoff homer and 20th overall this season. The rookie right-hander didn’t give up another run, allowing just five hits.
“The important thing was, it didn’t shake Tommy up,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
Detroit loaded the bases with one out in the fifth but failed to score. Hunter got Clete Thomas to ground into a fielder’s choice and struck out Miguel Cabrera to end the inning.
“During a baseball game, momentum can be a big thing,” Young said. “He had one of the best players in the league at the plate with the bases loaded and did a great job. That was huge for us and we came back (into the dugout) with the momentum.”
“You’ve just got to minimize the damage there,” Hunter said.
C.J. Wilson pitched the ninth for his 11th save in 13 chances, finishing it off in a light rain.
Young has three consecutive three-hit games for the first time in his career and the fourth time in the majors this season, first in the AL.
Granderson had three hits for the Tigers, 4-7 since the All-Star break.
Armando Galarraga (5-9) picked up victories in his first two career starts against Texas, but did not fare as well the third time around, allowing four runs and six hits in seven innings. Galarraga was a Rangers farmhand before he was traded to Detroit in February 2008.
After giving up a one-out single to Young in the first, Galarraga retired the next 12 batters. Cruz stopped the streak with a long drive to left-center in the fifth, tying it at 1 with his 24th homer.
“I thought Galarraga pitched a good enough ballgame to win at the major league level,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “To hold ’em to four runs in this ballpark, that’s not bad.”
Texas grabbed control with three runs in the sixth. Elvis Andrus led off with a double and went to third on Young’s one-out single to center. When Granderson’s throw to the plate was off target and rolled into foul territory, Andrus raced home with the go-ahead run. Hank Blalock added a two-run double later in the inning.
Detroit has scored three runs or less in eight of its last 11 games, and Leyland is growing weary of talking about the lack of offense.
“There’s no excuse for as good a hitting team as we have,” Leyland said. “Offensively we couldn’t muster anything.”
The Rangers are almost totally over the flu bug which spread through the clubhouse last week, affecting several players and coaches. RHP Vicente Padilla, who was scratched from Wednesday’s start due to flu-like symptoms, is healthy again and will return to the rotation Tuesday night. … Texas closer Frank Francisco is recovering from pneumonia, and Washington said he did not know when he would be activated. Francisco is over the pneumonia, but has to build up his stamina. … Tigers pitching coach Rick Knapp was on the job after collapsing on the team’s charter flight to Texas earlier in the day. Knapp was rushed to a hospital for tests after the plane arrived in Texas from Detroit, but doctors found nothing serious and Knapp got the OK to go to the ballpark with the team. … Texas RHP Kevin Millwood was feeling better after leaving Sunday’s game against the Royals with a strained left gluteus muscle. Millwood was optimistic he would be ready for Friday night’s start against Seattle.