Rangers earn impressive win

4-23-07 -- Not even an injury to closer Eric Gagne could darken the mood of Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington.

After struggling with runners in scoring position all game, Hank Blalock hit a two-run single and the Rangers scored three runs in the eighth to rally past the Oakland Athletics 4-3 Sunday.

Gagne got one out in the ninth before leaving with a strained right hip. He landed awkwardly after throwing a pitch to Oakland's Mark Ellis. He eventually limped off the field and Akinori Otsuka came into the game.

"Nothing is going to dampen our spirits," Washington said. "It's definitely a concern when you see your closer acting up on the mound. Thank God it was nothing with his arm and nothing in his back."

Washington said Gagne is day to day and his status will be reevaluated Monday.

The 2003 NL Cy Young Award winner pitched in only 14 games in 2005 before having right elbow surgery that ended his season. He pitched in just two games last season before having season-ending back surgery.

"It's frustrating," said Gagne, who signed a one-year deal with Texas in the offseason. "As long it's not my arm or my back, I'm not really worried. It's something I can deal with."

Gagne's injury might have been tougher to swallow had the Rangers not come back from a 3-1 deficit in the eighth.

Blalock's third hit of the game came on an 0-2 pitch from Oakland closer Huston Street with the bases loaded. It was Street's first blown save in five opportunities.

Before Blalock's hit, the Rangers were 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position. Texas had come into the game hitting just .227 as a team.

"It has been tough for a lot of us," Blalock said. "We're real optimistic it will turn around. It has been good to get these low-run wins."

Kenny Lofton led off the eighth with a single and Frank Catalanotto doubled against Justin Duchscherer (1-1), who then struck out Michael Young and walked Mark Teixeira to load the bases. Duchscherer walked Sammy Sosa to force in a run, and Street came into the game with Blalock coming to the plate.

Blalock then poked a single to right field on a pitch that was low and away.

"I don't think I could have put it in a much better spot," Street said. "It's one of those situations where you have to give him credit."

Willie Eyre (1-0) pitched 1 2-3 shutout innings to get the win and Otsuka got two outs for his second save.

Shannon Stewart hit a two-run homer in the fifth to give Oakland a 3-1 lead. It was his second of the season.

Chad Gaudin struck out a career-high seven in six innings for the A's. He gave up one run and four hits to lower his ERA to 1.85. After Nelson Cruz doubled in the second, Gaudin did not allow another hit before he was replaced by Alan Embree.

"I was struggling with my command a little bit," Gaudin said. "But I settled down and started getting ahead of hitters."

Rangers starter Robinson Tejeda gave up three runs and nine hits in 6 1-3 innings. He struck out six and walked none.

Tejeda breezed through the first three innings, allowing only one hit and striking out three.

Mike Piazza broke out of a 1-for-23 slump when he touched up Tejeda for an RBI double to tie it at 1 in the fourth.

Bobby Crosby led off the fifth with a single and stole second base. After two flyouts, Stewart lined an 0-2 fastball from Tejeda just over the wall in left.

The Rangers got leadoff hitters on base in the sixth and seventh but couldn't score.

Kinsler's RBI single in the second put the Rangers ahead 1-0.


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