Huge fifth inning powers Rangers over Rays
Marlon Byrd showed why manager Ron Washington wants him back in a Texas Rangers uniform next season.
Byrd homered twice, including his sixth career grand slam in an 11-run fifth inning, and the Rangers beat the Tampa Bay Rays 15-3 on Saturday night.
The center fielder will be a free agent after the season ends. Washington said before the game that he hoped the team would re-sign Byrd, and Saturday's performance only reinforced the manager's opinion.
"I don't think we can get anything better than what we have here," Washington said.
Before thinking about the offseason, the Rangers still have a glimmer of hope in the playoff race.
Texas moved within six games of Boston for the AL wild card with eight to play. The Red Sox lost 3-0 to the New York Yankees earlier in the day.
The Rangers also began the day trailing first-place Los Angeles by six games in the AL West. The Angels hosted Oakland on Saturday night, looking to reduce their magic number of four for clinching the division title.
The victory assured the Rangers of not being eliminated in their final home game of the season Sunday.
"It's great that we're still playing for something," Byrd said.
The Rangers scored all 11 runs in the fifth with two outs as 10 straight batters reached base.
The two-out outburst started with Byrd's slam off starter Matt Garza (8-11) that gave Texas a 5-3 lead. After that, the Rangers strung together four singles, three walks and two doubles.
"After getting the big hit, it seemed like everybody relaxed after that," Byrd said. "That's when we started stringing together some hits."
They finished the fifth with nine hits, one short of a club record, and sent 16 batters to the plate.
Texas starter Kevin Millwood (12-10) allowed three runs - two earned - and seven hits in seven innings to win his second consecutive start.
"I got up and shook hands a lot," Millwood joked about his team's huge inning. "I'll take that anytime."
Gregg Zaun homered for Tampa Bay, which has lost all five games at Texas this season.
Garza, who gave up seven runs and six hits in 4 2-3 innings, allowed just one run on Byrd's solo homer through four innings.
The Rangers loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth, but Garza looked as though he was going to get out of trouble as he retired the next two without a run scoring.
That's when everything unraveled for Tampa Bay.
Byrd, who tied a career high with five RBIs, hit the first pitch he saw from Garza 423 feet to left, his first gland slam since a game-ending shot that beat the New York Yankees on Aug. 4, 2008.
Byrd has career highs with 19 home runs and 88 RBIs.
"Marlon has stepped up huge for us all year," Texas' Chris Davis said. "He'll do whatever it takes to get the job done."
Garza allowed two more batters to reach before being replaced by Jeff Bennett, who gave up five runs, five hits and two walks without retiring a batter. Josh Hamilton hit a three-run double to make it 12-3 and Byrd walked before Dale Thayer got the final out of the fifth, Texas' largest inning since scoring 11 runs in the fifth on June 23, 1998, against Arizona.
"It just got out of control," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It was very difficult to watch, almost unbelievable."
Ian Kinsler homered in the sixth, his 31st, to make it 13-3. The Rangers capped the scoring on Julio Borbon's RBI grounder and Hamilton's RBI double in the eighth.
The Rangers tied a season high with 19 hits.
Tampa Bay opened the scoring on Ben Zobrist's bases-loaded walk in the first.
B.J. Upton reached on Davis' throwing error at third leading off the second and scored on Jason Bartlett's double.
Zaun's homer in the fourth put Tampa Bay on top 3-0.
NOTES: Rangers 3B Michael Young, who has missed 21 of 22 games with a strained left hamstring, ran the bases and took batting practice. He hopes to be back in the lineup for Texas' season-ending road trip. "I'll take another round of batting practice Sunday and see where I am Monday," he said. ... Garza struck out eight for Tampa Bay. ... Davis matched a career high with four hits.