Arlington, TX (Sports Network) – Mariano Rivera hit Jeff Francoeur with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to force in the winning run, as the Rangers upended the Yankees, 7-6, in the middle contest of a three-game series.
Alex Rodriguez had hit a three-run double in the eighth inning to put the Yankees ahead, 6-5, but the Rangers rallied for a second consecutive night.
On Friday, Nelson Cruz hit the game-tying home run in the eighth before slamming the game-winner in the 13th to give Texas the win.
In Saturday’s game, Ian Kinsler hit a game-tying RBI double before Rivera (3-3) eventually hit Francoeur in the left shoulder, ending the game.
“This lets us know that we’re a team that fights nine innings, fights till the end. We aren’t intimidated by anyone. We just go out there and play baseball,” Texas manager Ron Washington said.
The win was the fourth in a row for the AL West-leading Rangers, while the stunning loss was the Yankees’ fifth in their last six games. The loss also shrank New York’s lead in the AL East over Tampa Bay to half a game, as the Rays clobbered Toronto, 13-1, earlier Saturday.
After Alexi Ogando (4-1) pitched a scoreless top of the ninth, Rivera — who pitched two scoreless innings Friday — was brought out in the bottom half. However, he was not sharp, walking Vladimir Guerrero to start the frame. That brought up Cruz, who singled to right to put runners on the corners with nobody out.
Ian Kinsler followed by hitting a ball down the third base line and over the bag, plating pinch-runner Esteban German to even the game.
After Rivera intentionally walked Chris Davis to set up a force play at home, he got pinch-hitter Andres Blanco to pop up to first. But then Francoeur came up, and Rivera’s first-pitch fastball ran high and inside, grazing Francoeur’s left shoulder.
Francoeur ran to first in glee, Cruz crossed the plate, and the Rangers celebrated the win. It was a victory that came only after the game was delayed an hour by rain, the Yankees rallied for a late lead, and after Rivera, perhaps the greatest closer of all time, hit a batter to force in the deciding run.
“It’s unacceptable,” Rivera said of his performance. “I went in there to do my job and to get them out…It’s hard. It’s kind of tough.”
Guerrero’s RBI single got the Rangers on the board in the first inning, but the Yankees grabbed the lead in the second on run-scoring base hits from Lance Berkman and Francisco Cervelli.
Guerrero plated another run in the third with a double, and it remained 2-2 until after the delay had ended.
The rain delay forced both starters to truncate their outings. A.J. Burnett gave up two runs on four hits and three walks in four innings for New York, and struck out six. Texas’ Tommy Hunter allowed two runs on six hits and three walks in five innings, and fanned eight.
In the bottom of the sixth, Texas loaded the bases with one out before the Yankees brought David Robertson in to pitch. Pinch-hitter Francoeur greeted him with a sacrifice fly, and Elvis Andrus followed with an RBI single to put Texas up 4-2.
Mark Teixeira scored on a wild pitch in the seventh, while Mitch Moreland plated David Murphy with a single in the home half to put the Rangers up 5-3.
But the Yankees rallied in the eighth, which Cervelli began with a walk. Pedro Strop fanned Austin Kearns before being replaced by Matt Harrison, who pitched 2 2/3 innings Friday.
Harrison was simply ineffective, as he gave up a single to Nick Swisher before walking Teixeira to load the bases. Rodriguez followed by ripping a double down the left field line to plate all three runners and give the Yankees a 6-5 lead.
Guerrero finished with three hits and two RBI, while Kinsler went 2-for-4 with a walk…Rivera suffered his third blown save of the season and first since July 4 against Toronto…Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Berkman and Curtis Granderson had two hits apiece for New York…Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte, who has been on the disabled list since July 19 with a strained left groin, is set to return September 19 against Baltimore. He is scheduled to make a final rehab start Tuesday with Trenton.