Nippert's relief key to Texas' sixth straight win
Murphy's homer starts comeback; magic number now 10
ARLINGTON -- Rangers pitcher Dustin Nippert definitely recognized Tigers outfielder Austin Jackson when he stepped to the plate in the fifth inning of Tuesday's game."It was a little weird seeing him at the plate," Nippert said. "I thought about it. I just didn't want to throw one down the middle of the plate." Nippert did that on July 19, and Jackson hit a line drive back up in the middle that hit the 6-foot-8 reliever in the head, forcing him to spend almost six weeks on the disabled list. This time, Nippert won the battle and the game. Nippert struck out Jackson in a pivotal moment in the ballgame, and it was his relief work that brought order out of the chaos in Texas' 11-4 victory over the Tigers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Nippert, taking over his old role as long man, pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Derek Holland to earn his first victory since June 30. This was only his fourth appearance since coming off the DL on Sept. 1 But he was terrific, and the Rangers have now won six straight. "Nip came in and did an excellent job," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He meant a lot to us, giving the bullpen a breather. It's nice to see him back out there pounding the strike zone." With Oakland's loss to Kansas City, the Rangers now lead the American League West by nine games with 18 to play. Their magic number is now down to 10. "We've still got a long ways to go to where we want to be," third baseman Michael Young said. "We've got to stay focused on the task at hand. Nip was huge tonight. That was just a great job." Young had three hits on the night, including a three-run double in the seventh that broke the game open. David Murphy also went 3-for-5, with two doubles and a big home run that started the Rangers' comeback after they trailed, 4-1, going into the bottom of the fourth inning. The Rangers had 14 hits on the night and were 6-for-18 with runners in scoring position. Texas is hitting .312 with 40 runs scored during its six-game winning streak, its second longest of the season. "We have to match the other one ... what was it? Eleven?" second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "Our confidence is growing. We are a confident bunch regardless, but it's starting to get better." Holland lasted just four innings, allowing four runs on four hits and two walks while striking out five. He also hit two batters and three of the runs were unearned, because Kinsler and Nelson Cruz both let crucial high fly balls drop early in the game in the particularly tough and swirling wind. But Holland never really found any kind of rhythm and left after throwing 87 pitches. "I definitely didn't have good fastball command," Holland said. "I fell behind hitters and that kills you in the long run. I had good stuff in the bullpen, but it didn't transfer out." He was down when Murphy led off the fourth inning against Tigers pitcher Jeremy Bonderman with a long fly ball down the right-field line that landed in the second deck, just beyond the foul pole. First-base umpire Jerry Layne called it a home run, and Tigers manager Jim Leyland immediately protested, insisting the ball was just to the right of the pole. He was granted a review, and after the three umpires disappeared for an extended period of time, they came back and upheld the original ruling. "There was no evidence it was any different from what I had seen on the field," Layne said. "You need irreversible doubt to change the call. It's where the ball is going out of the ballpark, straight over the fence, that matters. And it basically went over the foul pole. From what I saw out there, and what the video didn't disprove, it was a home run." Leyland was still seething after the game. "What did you guys see?" he said. "You guys all saw it? Fair or foul? Foul ball? Then you don't have to ask me. You guys should write what you saw instead of asking me, and you should voice your opinion and you should voice yours on the TV. You don't have to ask me, because you saw it ... it was a foul ball, so say it was a foul ball." The game swung from there. The Rangers tied it with two more runs that inning, and it was 4-4 when Nippert entered the game in the fifth. First baseman Mitch Moreland made a diving catch on Jhonny Peralta's soft drive to start the inning before the Tigers loaded the bases. Nippert walked Brandon Inge, gave up a single to Casper Wells and hit Gerald Laird with a pitch. But Nippert came back to strike out both Ramon Santiago and Jackson to end the threat. "That was the big inning right here," Washington said. "From that point on, he began to shut them down." The Tigers' bullpen couldn't do the same. The Rangers scored three off Robbie Weinhardt in the sixth and four off Eddie Bonine in the seventh. Nippert gave the Rangers 4 1/3 scoreless innings before Alexi Ogando retired the final two hitters in the ninth. Nippert has now pitched seven scoreless frames over four appearances since his return. "It felt good to get out there and contribute and help the team win," Nippert said.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.