by Steve Carney
The Texas Rangers got back-to-back solo homers from A.J. Pierzynski and Mitch Moreland to break a 1-1 tie and then got some help to hold on to a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Tampa Bay trailed 5-3 going in to the ninth but started a rally against Joe Nathan with a single. Kelly Johnson fouled out for the first out. Molina then stole second, and took third on a groundout by Desmond Jennings.
Sean Rodriguez singled to center to get the Rays within a run, but home plate umpire Marty Foster then called a third strike on Ben Zobrist that was clearly low and outside to end the game.
"Umpires make mistakes just like players do," Zobrist said following the game. "It was a tough time to have a bad call. I just hope it doesn't end up costing us playoffs in the end. Every win is important and we might have had a chance to win that one."
"That cannot happen in a major league baseball game," An obviously dejected Joe Maddon said following the loss. "That kind of call cannot occur, I don't even wanna say under those circumstances, last inning, last out of the game. I'm not even gonna go there. That call cannot be made in a major league baseball game."
Texas initially took the lead in the bottom of the first inning, as Lance Berkman drew a two-out walk and scored when Adrian Beltre doubled into the left-field corner.
The Rays brought the contest back even in the top of the second, as Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce each singled to begin the frame. Yunel Escobar then grounded into what seemed to be a double play, but Ian Kinsler's threw the ball away, allowing Longoria to score.
Hellickson kept the score even until the fourth, when he got David Murphy and Nelson Cruz to line out for the first two outs of the inning before Pierzynski and Moreland each deposited pitches into the stands in right.
"I don't think I threw too many balls over the heart of the plate, except the one to Moreland," Hellickson said of his outing. "I just kept trying to make pitches and I wasn't getting them."
Hellickson (0-1) got through the fifth inning, allowing the three earned runs on five hits, walking three while striking out just one.
The Rangers extended their lead in the seventh, as Cesar Ramos allowed singles to Pierzynski and Moreland to lead off. Joe Maddon then brought in Kyle Farnsworth, who got Craig Gentry to bunt into a fielder's choice, but Elvis Andrus singled to bring in Pierzynski and Gentry to make it 5-1.
Tampa Bay got back into the game in the eighth, as Michael Kirkman walked Desmond Jennings to begin the frame. Ben Zobrist singled two batters later, and Longoria's single loaded the bases. Ron Washington then brought in Derek Lowe, who walked Shelley Duncan to force in a run. Escobar grounded into a fielder's choice to make it 5-3, but Ryan Roberts struck out to end the rally.
"We did a lot of wonderful things," Maddon said despite the loss. "I love the fight in this group."
Tampa Bay and Texas will go at it again Tuesday night at 8:05, with coverage on 620 WDAE starting at 7:00 with the Suncoast Hyundai Dealers Inside Pitch.