ARLINGTON, Texas — It’s way too hot to run around in Texas in late July, so the Rangers have made walking off a habit lately.
The Rangers won their third consecutive game with a walk-off home run Wednesday, this time off the bat of Adrian Beltre, for a 2-1 win to complete a sweep of the Los Angeles Angels.
“It’s overwhelming, really,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “You know, we just kept battling. When we’re at our best, this is what you get. Not three walk-off home runs, but different people getting it done.”
Two nights earlier it was Geovany Soto with the walk-off bomb. The night before, Leonys Martin hit the shot that ended a 14-11 marathon.
This time, it was the veteran Beltre who took Angels reliever Michael Kohn deep to lead off the bottom of the ninth.
The Rangers had just one walk-off win all season coming into the series. Now they’ve won three straight with walk-offs for the first time since the franchise moved to Texas in 1972.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Rangers are the first team to sweep a series with three walk-off home runs since Arizona did it against Montreal in 1999.
More importantly, the three-game winning streak has shaved two games off the A’s lead in the American League West, leaving the Rangers four games back with a series at Oakland this weekend.
“It gives us more confidence,” Beltre said of the walk-offs. “Hopefully that will get us over the hump and be more consistent. We need to score more runs for our pitching staff which has been really good the whole year.”
The Rangers’ walk-off fever has its roots in a 40-minute team meeting on Sunday in Cleveland. The Rangers’ offense virtually disappeared as they were swept by the Indians to fall to 2-8 since the All-Star Break.
“We came home with a different mindset, a more positive one,” Beltre said. “So far it’s been good.”
Closed-door team meetings don’t always result in such dramatic turnarounds, but the Rangers are quick to credit their Cleveland confab.
“I think it’s noticeable,” Washington said. “We came back from Cleveland and you saw what our offense can do… It’s been there, we just had to find it.”
The pitching performance by rookie Martin Perez was also noticeable. Perez allowed just one run – the tying homer by Josh Hamilton in the seventh – on four hits over 7 1/3 innings, the longest outing of his short career.
Perez dueled Angels starter Jerome Williams, who allowed just only a solo shot by Nelson Cruz in the second inning.
Cruz’ homer was his 25th of the season and came as he nears a likely suspension in the Biogenesis scandal.
“He’s been a model citizen, to be going through what he’s going through,” Washington said. “He’s been very good at leaving whatever issues he has on the outside. You’ve got to commend him for that.”
The Rangers also got a bounce-back performance from reliever Tanner Scheppers, who struggled Tuesday but struck out Mark Trumbo to end a threat in the eighth.
That set up Joe Nathan, normally the Rangers’ closer, to get his second win in as many nights thanks to yet another walk-off home run.
“Just playing the game the way it’s presented,” Washington said. “Today it presented a pitching battle, a 1-1 game. We made a mistake on a pitch to Ham (Josh Hamilton), and I think we all know what Ham is capable of doing that. Other than that, I felt we did an outstanding job for three days.”