The return of Nelson Cruz to the Texas Rangers lineup still didn’t mean a day off for Marlon Byrd or put rookie speedster Julio Borbon on the bench.
Byrd, starting his 52nd straight game, homered in consecutive innings and made a spectacular diving catch in between those long balls. Borbon went deep for the first time in his career in an 11-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday night that kept Texas within a game of Boston for the AL wild-card lead.
“This is fun,” Byrd said. “You just hope you just keep grinding it out, keep getting hits, keep helping this team win and they keep putting you out there.”
Cruz, the All-Star slugger activated from the 15-day disabled list before the game after missing 15 games because of a sprained left ankle, homered in his return to the lineup.
Every Rangers starter had a hit in their last home game before playing nine games in a row and 15 of 19 on the road.
Borbon went 3 for 5 with three RBIs, and is hitting .536 (15 for 28) in seven starts since being recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City while Cruz was hurt. Michael Young and Hank Blalock, who hasn’t had a day off since June 30 and was in a 3-for-27 slump, also had three hits.
“I can’t say how hungry I am to win. It’s great to be in the race. We want to win,” said Young, who in his ninth season is the longest-tenured Ranger. “We have a bunch of young guys and we’re feeding off their energy. This gives us some momentum heading into the trip.”
Derek Holland (7-7) allowed one run in 5 1-3 innings to win his third straight start. The rookie left-hander beat the Red Sox and AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels his previous two starts.
Holland was pulled with the bases loaded and a 4-1 lead after three Twins singles in the sixth. Hard-throwing rookie Neftali Feliz needed only two pitches to induce an inning-ending double-play grounder from Joe Crede.
“That turned the momentum,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “They got back in the dugout and scored some runs.”
Cruz, who hadn’t played for Texas since getting hurt while chasing a game-winning hit by Oakland’s Rajai Davis on Aug. 3, ignited a five-run sixth for the Rangers when he led off the inning with his 26th homer. He was 0 for 10 in a three-game rehab assignment this week at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
That was a welcome outburst for the Rangers, who had blown four-run deficits each of the previous two nights to lose.
All four Texas homers came in 5 1-3 innings off rookie right-hander Anthony Swarzak (3-7), who gave up six runs to lose his fourth consecutive start.
Byrd, who has a career-high 14 homers, hit a solo shot in the second and a two-run blast to center an inning later to put the Rangers up 4-0. The left fielder also had a diving backhanded catch to end the Minnesota third, and had a sacrifice fly in the seventh.
Delmon Young hit the first pitch of the fifth over the left-field wall for Minnesota’s only run.
Swarzak was done after giving up a one-out walk to Taylor Teagarden. Bobby Keppel then allowed doubles to all three batters he faced, including Young, whose ball ricocheted off the top of the 14-foot high wall in left. Manager Ron Washington questioned if it was a homer, but umpires used video replay to confirm it was a double.
Borbon pulled his homer down the right-field line in the third, and he had one of the doubles in the sixth off Keppel.
The only time the Rangers (68-52) had more wins through 120 games was 1999, when they had 71 on their way to their last AL West title. … It was Byrd’s third multihomer game in his career, the second this season. … Young has hit in 22 consecutive home games. That is one short of the Rangers Ballpark record of 23 in a row set by newly reacquired catcher Ivan Rodriguez in 1995. … Swarzak, who threw seven shutout innings in his major league debut for the Twins in May, has allowed 22 earned runs over 13 1-3 innings his last four starts. … The Twins said INF Matt Macri cleared waivers after being designated for assignment off the 40-man roster. Macri will return to Triple-A Rochester.
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