Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton were entwined in a hug, having avoided a bone-rattling collision. One of Texas’ All-Star outfielders even had the ball in his glove.
Cruz’s running catch to end the seventh inning, when the right fielder ended up in the arms of Hamilton, helped preserve a 3-1 victory for the Rangers on Wednesday night and a three-game sweep of the slumping Boston Red Sox.
“That ball falls, you don’t know how that game turns out to be,” manager Ron Washington said.
With speedy Jacoby Ellsbury on first base, and Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz waiting to hit, Dustin Pedroia hit a ball into the right-center gap. Both Cruz and Hamilton were calling for the ball and racing toward it – and were virtually face-to-face and smiling by the time Cruz held up his glove to show the ball.
“The crowd was so loud, we couldn’t hear. I peeked at the last second. He was still running at it with his eye on the ball, so I slowed down a little bit,” said Hamilton, who has already been on the disabled list twice the season for making catches while crashing into the wall.
“That was a weird play,” Cruz said. “I wanted to make sure I got it. He gave me a hug. He asked me, ‘You got it?”‘
Dustin Nippert (2-0) pitched into the sixth inning of a spot start for flu-ridden Vicente Padilla and David Murphy, who played despite flu-like symptoms, scored on a squeeze bunt as the Rangers completed their first series sweep of Boston since 2004.
The Red Sox have lost a season-high five straight. After losing the AL East lead Tuesday, Boston is two games behind the New York Yankees, who have won six straight after beating Baltimore on Wednesday.
Boston is hitting .192 with 13 runs in six games since the All-Star break.
“There’s no explanation for it,” Ellsbury said. “We obviously have very good hitters on the team. We’re just going through a rough patch.”
The close contact between Cruz and Hamilton came only hours after Rangers told the players of preventive measures to avoid the flu, including limited personal contact. Washington even joked before the game that players had to “stay away from hugging and kissing.”
Afterward, Washington was “real glad they were hugging out there because that was a big play.”
Cruz pointed out that neither of them has any flu symptoms.
But Padilla, the scheduled starter, was home with the flu, as was reliever Eddie Guardado. Texas put closer Frank Francisco on the 15-day disabled list Monday, retroactive to July 11, with a slight case of pneumonia. Murphy and utility infielder Omar Vizquel also had flu-like symptoms.
Nippert threw 94 pitches – about 25 more than Washington had hoped for. He left after striking out J.D. Drew for the second out in the sixth, and Doug Mathis pitched the final 3 1-3 innings for his first career save.
“Nippert gave us way more than we expected,” Washington said.
Nippert struck out five and walked two in his third start of the season. He had been moved to the bullpen after going only 3 2-3 innings in both of his previous starts.
Clay Buchholz (1-1) allowed three runs and six hits over four innings. The right-hander started in place of All-Star knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who was put on the disabled list Tuesday with a lower back problem.
Boston led 1-0 when Nick Green ended a 1-for-17 skid with a leadoff homer in the third. Ian Kinsler led off the bottom of the third with a tying homer.
Cruz and Murphy had consecutive singles to start the fourth, Murphy going to second on Boston’s failed attempt to get Cruz out at third. Taylor Teagarden then had an infield chopper that scored Cruz and Murphy came home on rookie Elvis Andrus‘ squeeze bunt.
“Elvis did a great job,” Murphy said. “It was just great placement by him and I scored easily.”
The Red Sox made two trades Wednesday. They acquired first baseman Adam LaRoche from Pittsburgh for two minor leaguers and got outfielder Chris Duncan from St. Louis for shortstop Julio Lugo, who had been designated for assignment Friday.
LaRoche will join the Red Sox by Friday for the start of their next series, at home against Baltimore. Duncan, who had been optioned by St. Louis to Triple-A Memphis after Tuesday’s game, will go to Boston’s top affiliate, Pawtucket.
NOTES: Texas has won five of six against Boston, already claiming the season series with three games left at Texas next month. The Rangers claimed the series only once the past nine seasons. … The Rangers had six stolen bases, one shy of a club record and their most since six at Seattle on Sept. 28, 2000.