Pence pinch-hit slam, Rangers rally past Pirates 9-6

PITTSBURGH (AP) — In a game full of monster shots, Hunter Pence hit the biggest home run of all.

Pence connected for a pinch-hit grand slam and the Texas Rangers rallied late, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-6 Wednesday.

The Rangers trailed 6-2 before three walks by reliever Michael Feliz loaded the bases for Pence. He sent the first pitch off the foul pole in left field to tie it.

Coming into this season, Pence didn’t appear to be the longball threat that he once was. The 36-year-old once hit 27 home runs in a season, but that was back in 2013. He hit just four in all of 2018, and was signed to a minor league contract by the Rangers in February.

But his power stroke might be returning to the form of his youth. Pence hit a home run and a pair of doubles in the first game of the series on Tuesday before equaling his 2018 total with his fourth homer of the season Wednesday.

“Trust my approach and hit it. That was all I was focused on,” Pence said.

Rangers manager Chris Woodward was focused on putting up Pence in the right spot.

“He’s a remarkable human being, man,” Woodward said. “He’s waiting the whole time. He was champing at the bit behind me. I could hear him pacing back and forth. I let him know, ‘Hey, I want to make sure when you hit, it’s a situation where you’re either going to tie it or plate a run.'”

Isiah Kiner-Falefa doubled off Tyler Lyons (1-1) and an offline relay throw allowed Nomar Mazara to score the go-ahead run in the ninth. Rougned Odor followed with a two-run homer.

Ariel Jurado (1-1) worked the eighth and got the ball to Chris Martin, who earned his first save of the season and first since 2015.

Joey Gallo gave Texas the early lead with a two-run shot that bounced off the concourse beyond the right-center field wall and landed in the Allegheny River. The estimated 443-foot drive was Gallo’s 100th career home run in his 377th game, making him the fastest player to 100 homers in American League history. He also became the first player in major league history to hit 100 home runs before reaching 100 singles (he has 93).

Gallo said Pence has been a positive example for himself and the other young hitters on the Rangers.

“He’s always ready to come in the game,” Gallo said. “I think that says a lot for a guy with that much experience, that much respect in the game, and he’s taking every single out serious, every single game serious. I think it’s very good for us young guys to see that.”

Josh Bell’s estimated 472-foot drive tied the game in the Pittsburgh fourth and was the fourth ever to reach the river on a fly. It was his ninth home run of the season after hitting 12 in 2018.

“I think I’ve hit a couple on the bounce,” Bell said. “I’ve never really thought about getting one in the air. But I knew that if I connected that way, it was a possibility. It was awesome to have finally have done it.”

Gregory Polanco drove two with a single in the Pirates sixth. Kevin Newman stole second and scored on two errors ahead of Colin Moran’s pinch-hit home run in the seventh.

Texas starter Shelby Miller struck out six over his four innings, and allowed only the Bell homer.

ROSTER MOVE

The Rangers optioned outfielder Delino DeShields to Triple-A Nashville after the game. He is batting .182 with one homer, 10 RBIs and seven steals in 30 games.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rangers: 1B Ronald Guzmán (right hamstring strain) is expected to come off the injured list on Thursday. He’s been out since April 7.

Pirates: Pittsburgh put RHP Keone Kela on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to May 6, with right shoulder inflammation. … RHP Nick Burdi was diagnosed with a nerve injury after leaving the game in obvious pain on April 22. He’ll be re-assessed after six weeks of rest. … RHP Chris Archer (right thumb irritation) is scheduled to throw a simulated game on Friday.

UP NEXT

Rangers: LHP Mike Minor (3-2, 2.40 ERA) will start a four-game series at Houston. He threw seven scoreless against the Astros on April 3.

Pirates: RHP Joe Musgrove (1-3, 2.63) will start a season-long 11-game trip in St. Louis on Friday. He made his shortest start of the season on May 3, when he allowed seven runs in 2 2/3 innings against Oakland.