Trio of homers help Rangers rally in Toronto finale
Cruz, Beltre and Murphy all go deep, sending Texas home happy
TORONTO -- Pressed on the issue in recent days, Rangers manager Ron Washington kept insisting his club would snap out of its uncharacteristic funk at the plate.
Turns out the skipper was right.
The Rangers clubbed three homers to power their way to a 6-4 victory against the Blue Jays and avoid a three-game sweep in front of 42,722 at Rogers Centre on Sunday.
"We don't quit," Washington said. "We got some big hits in some situations, and that's what it takes."
Entering Sunday's finale in Toronto, the Rangers had scored three runs or fewer in six of their past seven contests, five of which were losses. Over the first two games of the series, Texas mustered just four runs, three of which came during a grueling 18-inning defeat on Saturday.
But Texas got back in the win column, thanks to the long ball, and snapped a three-game losing skid, which matched a season high. Adrian Beltre played a pivotal role in the victory, the Rangers' second in their past nine road games.
With two out in the seventh, the Blue Jays turned to right-hander Neil Wagner to face Beltre. Wagner got ahead of Beltre, 1-2, but couldn't put him away, as the slugger fouled off three consecutive fastballs before driving another 97-mph heater the other way for his 14th homer of the season, putting Texas ahead, 5-4.
Beltre's homer gave the Rangers their first lead of the series since they held a 1-0 advantage in the first inning of Friday's opener.
"I feel OK, not locked in," quipped Beltre, who extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a single in the fifth. "I put a good swing on it and the ball went out of the park."
David Murphy provided Texas a two-run advantage by leading off the eighth with a solo homer, his eighth of the year, off Dustin McGowan, making only his second appearance since September 2011.
"That was big right there, it gave us some more cushion," Washington said. "We know he's capable of doing things like that."
In the bottom half of the frame, the Rangers turned the ball over to closer Joe Nathan, who did not pitch in Saturday's marathon, but felt fatigued a day later after warming up from the ninth inning on during the extra-innings loss.
But after Nathan allowed the first two runners to reach base, he retired the next three batters to record his 19th save of the season and lower his ERA to 1.78.
One of those batters was Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista, whom Nathan started off with a called strike that the slugger did not agree with. Bautista voiced his displeasure to home-plate umpire Gary Darling before first-base ump Paul Emmel called him on a check swing the following pitch, which Bautista was once again not pleased with.
Nathan then got the three-time All-Star to swing through a slider for the third strike, and Bautista immediately went face-to-face with Darling, jawing at him before getting ejected.
As he walked toward the dugout, Bautista threw some equipment, including his bat, onto the field.
"If people go back and look at it, that's a pitcher's pitch. It's a strike in baseball," Nathan said of the first called strike. "I'm not going to say it was borderline, I think it was a strike."
Nathan and three other Rangers relievers combined to throw 3 1/3 scoreless innings after taking over for starter Justin Grimm. Neil Cotts, who took over for Grimm in the sixth and threw one inning, picked up his second win of the year.
Grimm put Texas into an early 4-0 hole in the third inning after cruising to start the game, retiring eight of the first nine batters he faced. After the 24-year-old issued a two-out walk, he got Bautista to hit a grounder to second baseman Jurickson Profar that should have ended the frame, but instead changed the Rangers' fortunes.
Profar slipped and was unable to recover, failing to make a throw, and Edwin Encarnacion followed by opening the scoring with an RBI single to left field. Adam Lind then drilled a three-run homer, his sixth of the year, to left-center field to give Toronto a four-run lead.
It skewed what was a solid performance from Grimm, who bounced back after getting tagged for eight runs over a season-low 1 2/3 innings against Boston his last time out. Grimm retired nine of the 12 batters he faced after Lind's homer and said the key was commanding his fastball on both sides of the plate. In the start against the Red Sox, he said he was "just hoping it was a strike instead of knowing and having an idea of where it was going."
"It was night and day," said Grimm, who walked three, struck out six and threw a career-high 107 pitches. "I was on the attack, I think that was the biggest difference today."
Nelson Cruz answered the four-run third by clubbing his team-leading 15th homer of the season off Blue Jays starter Josh Johnson in the fourth. Chris McGuiness then cut the deficit in half by ripping an RBI double to right field for his first career Major League hit.
Cruz added an RBI single off Johnson in the fifth before Texas tied things up in the sixth.
Johnson, making his second start since coming off the disabled list, allowed three runs on five hits, walking four and striking out four. He needed 109 pitches to get through his five innings of work.
"I was kind of all over the place," said Johnson, who revealed he pitched with a blister.
The Rangers finished their two-city, six-game road trip with a 2-4 record. Texas will host Cleveland on Monday night for the start of an 11-game homestand, the club's longest since 2008.