By Greg Auman, The Sports Xchange
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Elvis Andrus got the Texas Rangers’ scoring started on Friday night, and nine innings later he closed out an unlikely win as Texas rallied for two runs in the ninth and one in the 10th for a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
Shin-Soo Choo had the big hit in between, a two-run homer in the ninth that helped the Rangers (46-50) end a five-game losing streak.
“It was a tremendous ballgame tonight for us,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “I think there were five innings with three up, three down. Late, a couple of tremendous at-bats from (Joey) Gallo and Choo to give us an opportunity to win a baseball game.”
Jonathan Lucroy led off the 10th with a walk from Brad Boxberger (2-1), advanced on a sacrifice bunt and flyout, then scored when Andrus beat the throw to first on a ground ball deep to third base.
Rangers reliever Alex Claudio (2-0) got the win after pitching the final two innings.
The Rays got a leadoff single in the 10th, but Adeiny Hechavarria bunted into a 2-6-3 double play and pinch-hitter Trevor Plouffe lined out to left to end the game.
The Rays (51-46) had been 44-1 this season when leading after eight innings. Starter Alex Cobb got a rare chance to pitch into the ninth but lost a two-run lead on Choo’s home run to send the game to extra innings.
“I had the confidence for him to go back out there and get three more outs for us,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said of sticking with Cobb. “No slight to anybody in the bullpen.”
Three of the Rays’ first four hits off Rangers starter Yu Darvish were solo home runs, good enough for a 3-1 lead heading into the ninth.
Brad Miller tied the score in the fourth inning with his fourth homer of the season, Corey Dickerson gave the Rays the lead in the sixth with his 18th, and Mallex Smith added an insurance run in the eighth with his second home run of the season.
“I can’t say enough about Yu Darvish tonight and how he threw the baseball,” Banister said. “Even though he did give up the three home runs … tremendous performance by him.”
Cobb had been dominant of late. He had allowed one earned run in 15 1/3 innings in his previous two starts, and has lasted at least seven innings in five of his last six outings.
At 96 pitches with a 3-1 lead, Cobb came back out for the ninth and a chance at the Rays’ first complete game since May 2016. It took only three pitches to spoil a gem — a double to Gallo, then a two-run homer to left by Choo, his 14th home run of the season, to tie the score at 3 and end Cobb’s night. He had allowed only three hits and one run in the first eight innings.
“There is no doubt that is a very, very tough loss,” Cash said.
Rays closer Alex Colome took over for Cobb and got out of the ninth with the score tied. Cobb and Darvish both settled for solid no-decisions, with matching lines of eight innings, five hits and three runs allowed. Darvish struck out 12, matching his total from his last start against the Rays in September.
For five innings, Darvish and Cobb were locked in a pitchers’ duel, each allowing just one run and two hits and largely keeping batters in check.
The Rangers struck early, as Andrus hit a solo home run as the second batter of the game for a 1-0 lead. Cobb continued his strong pitching of late, holding the Rangers to one hit in the next four innings.
Darvish, who came in with a 4-0 career record and 1.07 ERA against the Rays, dominated early. He didn’t allow a hit until Dickerson’s high chopper back to the mound for an infield single in the third inning.
Miller hit a solo home run in the fourth to tie the score, but Darvish had seven strikeouts in his first 11 outs.
Rays right fielder Steven Souza did not start the game. He was listed as day to day with a left hip strain after sliding awkwardly and leaving Wednesday’s game. Shane Peterson, hitting .260 in limited action, got the start in right field instead, hitting eighth in the batting order.
Souza entered the game as a pinch hitter in the ninth and singled to left field.