ARLINGTON -- The Rangers' 10-9 victory over the Angels took four hours and 33 minutes, the longest nine-inning game for both teams in franchise history.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister saw it in a different light.
"Probably the best character win we've had all year," Banister said. "That's how you sum it up. A lot of players played big, from the pitching staff to the guys in the batter's box. Everybody up and down the lineup played a big part in this win."
The Rangers won on an emotional day. The club found out before the game that third baseman Adrian Beltre will likely miss the rest of the season with a strained left hamstring. But it was also the night that reliever Jake Diekman made a triumphant return to the mound after missing the first five months of the season.
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"It's a big, big, big win," said Carlos Gomez, who scored the winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning on a wild pitch. "We are playing one of the teams on top of us for the Wild Card. ... We lost one of the best guys out there. But we still can prove to other teams that we intend on finishing strong."
The Rangers will need that strong finish. Friday's win only brought them back to .500 again, but they moved to within three games of the Twins for the second Wild Card spot in the American League. They are four games behind the Yankees, who lead the Wild Card standings.
The Rangers can't afford any more stumbles and they almost did on Friday. They led 6-2 after three innings and 9-4 after six, before the Angels rallied to tie it. But the Rangers were able to regain the lead in the eighth when Gomez walked with two outs against reliever Cam Bedrosian, stole second, went to third on catcher Martin Maldonado's throwing error and scored on the wild pitch.
"All the way to the end," said Rangers pitcher Cole Hamels, who allowed four runs in five innings. "Obviously, we made it pretty interesting in seeing how long we could take the game. They have a good team ... they weren't going away. You've got to keep battling."
The Rangers had 11 hits -- including three home runs -- drew six walks and were 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position. They left 10 runners on base. Their pitchers allowed 14 hits, six walks and a hit batter, but the Angels were 4-for-16 with runners in scoring position and left 13 on the bases.
That included the bases loaded in the ninth inning. Alex Claudio, after getting the final two outs in the eighth, didn't put this one away until he retired Eric Young on a grounder to short with the bases loaded in the ninth.
"Claudio ... what can you say," Banister said. "He's got guts beyond imagination. Incredible effort by Claudio."
Then there was Diekman, getting into his first game. He came in to pitch in the seventh with runners on second and third, nobody out and the Rangers leading 9-6. It was what Banister calls a "high-leverage" situation, but Diekman retired three straight hitters -- one on a sacrifice fly -- and the Rangers got out of the inning with a two-run lead.
"One of the biggest highlights of the night for me personally was Jake Diekman," Banister said. "For him to limit the damage there, I felt it was a tremendous effort by Jake."