With their offense hitting the skids in June, the Texas Rangers were dropping fast in the division standings. Texas broke out of its monthlong slumber in time to keep things interesting in the American League West.
Hank Blalock's second homer of the game, a two-run shot with two outs in the ninth inning, gave Texas a 9-7 victory Wednesday night and moved the Rangers within a half game of the first-place Los Angeles Angels in the division.
Texas was hitting .221 in June before breaking out with five home runs in a 9-5 victory Tuesday over Los Angeles.
The Rangers played small ball early to get a 7-1 lead, then used Blalock's blast to hold off the Angels.
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"There will be times when things don't go right, and that was one of those times," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "Those guys never dropped their heads. We try to play the game the way it's presented to us."
Michael Young singled off Justin Speier (3-2) leading off the Texas ninth. David Murphy dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move Young to second and Marlon Byrd struck out.
Blalock, who homered in the fourth, hit the first pitch into the grassy area beyond the fence in center field.
"I tried to throw a backdoor slider," Speier said. "That was not the right pitch."
Texas, who took two of three from the Angels, improved to 5-1 against Los Angeles this season. The teams meet again for a three-game set next week in California.
"I don't know if it's a statement," said Rangers starter Kevin Millwood, who allowed four runs in 6 1-3 innings. "I think the statement is that our offense looks like it's back to where it's been in the past."
The Angels rallied from their six-run deficit by scoring three runs in both the seventh and ninth. Juan Rivera's three-run homer with two outs in the top of the ninth off Frank Francisco (2-1) tied the game at 7.
Los Angeles squandered other chances by having four runners thrown out on the bases, including Chone Figgins getting thrown out trying to leg out a triple leading off the ninth.
"We did things that were out of character," Angels center fielder Torii Hunter said. "We all made mistakes." Yankees 4, Mariners 2
At New York, Alex Rodriguez hit a tiebreaking homer and Andy Pettitte pitched seven strong innings in New York's seventh straight victory.
Johnny Damon and Melky Cabrera also went deep for the Yankees, who overcame Ken Griffey Jr.'s 621st home run to win their 10th straight home game against Seattle since Sept. 4, 2007.
Mariano Rivera saved his third consecutive game, increasing his career total to 502 and getting his 20th in 21 chances this season.
Pettitte (8-3) outpitched fellow lefty Jarrod Washburn (4-6) in a game that took just 2 hours, 17 minutes. The Yankees (45-32) are a season-high 13 games over .500. White Sox 6, Indians 2
At Cleveland, Jose Contreras got a rare road win, pitching eight superb innings as Chicago won its fifth straight.
Contreras (3-7) improved to 3-2 with a 2.17 ERA since being recalled from Triple-A Charlotte after a monthlong demotion. The right-hander, who was 1-6 in his previous 10 road starts, allowed two runs and five hits with eight strikeouts.
Cleveland has dropped five straight and 13 of 15.
Ramon Castro hit a three-run homer off Jeremy Sowers (2-6) in a four-run sixth as the White Sox improved to 12-4 since June 13. Red Sox 6, Orioles 5, 11 innings
At Baltimore, Boston used a four-run ninth inning to pull even, Julio Lugo singled in the tiebreaking run in the 11th and Jonathan Papelbon became the franchise's career saves leader.
Papelbon got three outs in the 11th for his 20th save this season and 133rd with the Red Sox, breaking the team record held by Bob Stanley. Less than 24 hours earlier, Papelbon yielded the key hit in the eighth inning of a game in which Boston blew a 10-1 lead before losing 11-10.
Ramon Ramirez (5-2) worked the 10th for the visiting Red Sox, who took two of three from Baltimore for their seventh straight series win.
Danys Baez (4-2) was the loser. Blue Jays 5, Rays 0
At Toronto, Ricky Romero pitched four-hit ball over eight innings, Rod Barajas, Adam Lind and Scott Rolen each homered and the Blue Jays ended Tampa Bay's seven-game winning streak.
Romero (6-3) matched the longest outing of his career in winning his third straight start. He walked four, struck out seven and lowered his ERA to 2.85. Romero allowed just two hits through the first six innings.
Toronto snapped a four-game losing streak with a trio of solo home runs off James Shields (6-6). Twins 5, Royals 1
At Kansas City, Mo., Joe Mauer went 3 for 3, raising his average to .392 and backing pitcher Glen Perkins in Minnesota's victory.
After walking in the first inning, Mauer stroked three consecutive singles, driving in one run and scoring another as the Twins completed a 6-3 trip that began in Milwaukee and St. Louis. He was walked intentionally in the eighth.
Perkins (4-4) allowed one run for the second straight start, allowing 10 hits in seven innings. Joe Nathan got the final out for his 21st save in 23 opportunities.
Gil Meche (4-8), whose "dead arm" the previous two starts had created concern among the Royals, gave up three runs -- two earned -- six hits and five walks in six innings. Athletics 5, Tigers 1
At Oakland, Calif., Jason Giambi and Jack Cust broke out of funks with two-run homers, and Oakland's Dallas Braden ended a four-start winless stretch.
Giambi's drive in the sixth off Detroit's Justin Verlander (8-4) was career homer No. 407, tying him with Duke Snider for 43rd place.
Braden (6-7) pitched seven strong innings to win for the first time in five starts since beating Baltimore on June 5.