Carlos Gomez was a struggling outfielder when released by another AL West team just over a month ago. Now he is helping the AL-leading Texas Rangers close in on home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
Gomez hit a towering, tiebreaking three-run homer in the eighth inning Wednesday night, giving the Rangers their MLB-best 49th come-from-behind win, 8-5 over the Milwaukee Brewers.
"We believe in Carlos. We believed in him so much that we brought him not just as an experiment or anything like that," manager Jeff Banister said. "He's showing you exactly just how he can impact the game, and he's put in the work."
The 418-foot homer to left was his 13th this season, the second long three-run homer in as many nights — he had a 444-foot drive on Tuesday. That makes eight homers and 24 RBIs in 31 games since joining the Rangers last month after being released by Houston.
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"You see it the last two weeks, see the work I've been doing," said Gomez, a two-time All-Star with Milwaukee. "Work a lot, sooner or later you see a good result."
Jeremy Jeffress (1-0), who came to Texas from Milwaukee in an Aug. 1 trade with Jonathan Lucroy, worked the final two innings in relief of Cole Hamels. Jeffress won five days after being reinstated by Major League Baseball from the restricted list following a drunken driving arrest last month and then a three-week stint in an inpatient rehab clinic.
AL West champion Texas (94-65) has a 1.5-game lead over Boston for the best record in the American League after the Red Sox lost earlier Wednesday even while clinching the AL East title. Former Rangers first baseman Mark Teixeira hit a game-ending grand slam to give the New York Yankees a 5-3 win over the Red Sox, who led 3-0 in the ninth.
Lucroy reached to start the eighth on a two-base error when the ball ricocheted off the glove of center fielder Hernan Perez.
"That one was like a knuckleball. It went left to right, and at the last minute moved to the left again," said Perez, playing only his fifth game in center field this season.
Delino DeShields came on as a pinch-runner, and after Mitch Moreland walked against Corey Knebel (1-4), he scored the tying run when Elvis Andrus greeted reliever Tyler Thornburg with a single to center.
Rougned Odor also homered for the Rangers, his 32nd a two-run shot in the first that snapped an 0-for-22 slide and put Texas up 3-2.
"Look, he's going to hit. The swing is there, he's one of our main guys," Banister said. "But some feel-good for him."
Brewers second baseman Jonathan Villar hit Cole Hamels' first pitch of the game into the stands for his 19th homer, and the Brewers scored in each of the first three innings to build a 5-3 lead. ... The Rangers got their 41st win from a reliever, matching the major league record set by the Dodgers in 1953.
Hamels, the All-Star lefty expected to start the Rangers' playoff opener Oct. 6, allowed five runs (three earned) over seven innings with six strikeouts and no walks. Hamels has thrown 202⅔ innings, exceeding 200 innings pitched in the regular season for the eighth time in his career, and the seventh year in a row — which will be the longest active streak in the majors since Chicago White Sox right-hander James Shields (nine) and Seattle's Felix Hernandez (eight) will not extend their streaks this season. Hamels has exactly 200 strikeouts , his fifth 200-strikeout season.
Rangers: Shin-Soo Choo (fractured left forearm) will return to Texas on Thursday and could play this weekend to determine if he's ready for the playoffs. He played seven innings in right field and made six plate appearances in an instructional league game Wednesday, his third day in a row playing in Arizona. He was 2 for 5 with a two-run homer and a walk.
Rangers: After Texas' final day off of the regular season, Yu Darvish (6-5) makes his final start before the playoffs Friday in the opener of a three-game weekend series against Tampa Bay.
Brewers: Lefty Brent Suter, a Harvard graduate, starts Friday in the series opener at California. Since allowing four runs in 4⅓ innings in an emergency start Aug. 19, Suter has pitched 12⅓ scoreless innings over 12 relief appearances.