Geovany Soto kept anxiously watching the ball as he trotted out of the batter’s box. Finally, when it landed in the left-field seats, he thrust his right arm triumphantly into the air and set off quite a celebration for the Texas Rangers.
Soto’s game-ending home run, after fellow catcher A.J. Pierzynski had already gone deep in the ninth off Los Angeles Angels closer Ernesto Frieri, gave the Rangers a 4-3 victory Monday night. That snapped a four-game losing streak in which they struggled to score runs.
"I was hoping it would stay fair," Soto said. "I’m the happiest guy."
When Soto got back to the plate, he was mobbed by teammates and got a huge hug for Rangers manager Ron Washington.
Pierzynski led off the ninth by pulling a pitch into the right-field seats, his 11th homer this season, snapping a 4-for-27 slump and tying the game. Nelson Cruz followed with a single off Frieri (0-3) before David Murphy grounded into a double play. Soto, who entered the game hitting only .198 this season, then hit a towering flyball down the left-field line.
"You know, A.J. grind one out, Cruz grind one out. And then Murphy smoked that ball. That’s just the way things have been going for him. He centers one and they turn a double play," Washington said. "But then Geo pulled us out for us. Had a great at-bat, that’s what we needed."
In the Angels clubhouse after the game, Frieri sat silently at his locker for a few minutes, staring up toward the ceiling. Teammates and manager Mike Scioscia came by and patted him on the left shoulder.
The Angels, without slugger Albert Pujols for maybe the rest of the season, lost their fourth straight game and are 2-8 their last 10 road games.
"It’s a tough situation. We’ve been struggling, and I just went out there and gave up the game. We needed that win," Frieri said. "It was a fastball (to Soto). Supposed to be down and away but it was middle-in and up. Every time I miss, I get hurt really bad."
Jason Frasor (1-2) pitched a scoreless ninth for Texas, three days after he gave up a game-ending homer in an 11-inning loss at Cleveland.
Texas had gone 26 innings without scoring a run, two short of the 41-year-old team record, until Ian Kinsler’s RBI single in the sixth to get the Rangers within 3-1. They had played 46 innings without leading a game until the second career game-ending homer for Soto, who was catching Matt Garza while Pierzynski got a night as the designated hitter.
"We needed that game after the offensive struggled we’ve been through the last few weeks," Pierzynski said. "To have a game like that, especially at home after the trip we came off, it’s huge."
The Texas comeback spoiled another solid effort for Angels starter Jered Weaver, who allowed only one run with six strikeouts over seven innings. The right-hander has a 1.31 ERA (seven runs in 48 innings) his last seven starts.
Dane De La Rosa allowed an unearned run in his inning of relief before Frieri’s third blown save in 28 chances.
J.B. Shuck hit his first major league homer for the Angels, who have lost four in a row. Josh Hamilton had a two-run single against his former team.
Garza struck out six and allowed three runs over seven innings in his second Texas start since getting traded. The right-hander had won six starts in a row, including his last five for the Chicago Cubs before a winning debut for the Rangers last Wednesday against the New York Yankees when the only run he allowed was unearned after his throwing error.
Weaver had retired 12 in a row before Leonys Martin, in the leadoff spot for the first time in his 124 major league games, had a drag bunt in the sixth. The pitcher fielded the ball along the first-base line, but didn’t even attempt a throw since Martin had already run past him.
Martin got to second when Elvis Andrus unsuccessfully tried to bunt for a hit. Ian Kinsler, who went to No. 3 in the order with Martin leading off, followed with an RBI single for the first Texas run in three games, and also ended a scoreless streak of 19 2-3 innings for Weaver.
Andrus extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a single in the eighth, then stole second, went to third on catcher Hank Conger’s throwing error and scored on Kinsler’s sac fly.
Shuck homered in the fifth in his 323rd career at-bat and 115th game. Later that inning, Erick Aybar drew a walk and Mike Trout had a two-out double before both scored on Hamilton’s opposite-field grounder to left made it 3-0.
"It’s a little frustrating. This was probably one of the best I’ve thrown the ball in Texas," Weaver said. "No lead is safe here, and obviously that was the case tonight."
NOTES: Weaver is 15-2 with a 1.72 ERA in July games since 2011. … The Rangers second ended on a 6-4-3 grounder — for one out, not the double play usually associated with that sequence. Soto hit a grounder that SS Aybar fielded in the hole and threw to second base, where runner Cruz had already reached. But 2B Howie Kendrick still had plenty of time to get Soto out at first. … Angels left-hander C.J. Wilson, 7-1 with a 1.96 ERA his last eight starts, is scheduled to start against his former team Tuesday night. He is 0-2 with a 7.65 ERA in five starts against the Rangers, all last season.