ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Give Adolis García a bat late for the Texas Rangers, and there’s a good chance he’ll do something to change the game.
Exhibit 13 came Saturday.
The Cuban slugger homered leading off the bottom of the ninth inning, giving the Rangers a 3-2 victory over the Washington Nationals.
Garcia drilled a 2-2 slider from reliever Kyle Finnegan (2-2) into Washington’s bullpen, just to the left of the hitting background in center field. He took several steps with the bat in his hand before dropping it, spreading his arms toward his teammates in the dugout and breaking into a jog to first base.
It was his 13th tying or go-ahead homer in the sixth inning or later since the start of 2021, the most in the majors in that span. It also tied high-priced shortstop Corey Seager for the team lead this season with 15 homers.
“You can see he feels the moment and takes a big, deep breath,” Texas manager Chris Woodward said. “You’re like, ‘I would not want to be pitching right now.’ A calm, low-heartbeat Adolis García in that situation is … Good luck.”
Nelson Cruz hit a tying two-run homer for the Nationals against for his former team in the sixth inning after Nathaniel Lowe had given Texas the lead with a two-run shot in the second.
Finnegan faltered the day after striking out two in the eighth for his team-leading 11th hold in the Nats’ 2-1 win in the series opener. The first strikeout came against García on a 99 mph fastball.
“I’m going to take this more as he made a play for his team,” said Finnegan, who is from the Houston area and pitched at Texas State. “I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing and keep that confidence and not let this outing take away from how I’ve been feeling and how I’ve been throwing.”
García’s winner came after he caught Keibert Ruiz’s flyball at the base of the wall in right field to start the ninth, and made a running catch on a liner from César Hernández for the second out.
Joe Barlow (3-1), the only right-hander to pitch on a bullpen day for Texas, finished the ninth with a strikeout of Victor Robles.
“Usually when I play really good defense, I come up and have really good at-bats right now,” García said through a translator.
The parade of lefties for Texas — four in a row — stumbled with the third choice when Brock Burke gave up Juan Soto’s leadoff double and Cruz’s ninth homer of the season with one out in the sixth.
Taylor Hearn, in his first appearance since being pulled from the rotation, retired the final 11 batters he faced following consecutive walks with a wild pitch in the second inning after opener Brett Martin issued a pair of free passes in the first.
A 24-year-old left-hander who has struggled to stay in the rotation each of the past two seasons, Hearn had allowed 17 runs in 18 2/3 in four June starts before his four hitless innings with one strikeout.
Hearn was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock after the game along with rookie infielder Ezequiel Durán. The Rangers will make corresponding roster moves before the series finale Sunday.
Martin made his third appearance as an opener for Texas, but first since the left-hander’s rookie year in 2019, after Matt Bush was scratched when he was deemed unavailable a day after a 10-pitch relief appearance.
Lowe’s 432-foot drive off to center was his 10th of the season and seventh in June. The number this month is now tied for the team lead after García matched him.
Washington’s Josiah Gray didn’t allow his second hit until Leody Taveras had the first of consecutive singles with two outs in the fifth. The right-hander struck out nine in a career-high seven innings and still hasn’t lost on the road in 12 career starts over two seasons.
GONNA NEED A NEW PHONE
A fan’s phone was crushed by a high pop foul ball from Washington leadoff hitter Lane Thomas in the seventh inning. The ball went just over the netting behind home plate. The fan’s phone was on a table in the field-level boxes.
The homer for Cruz, who turns 42 next week, was his 300th for teams other than Texas. Of his 457 career long balls, the first 157 were with the Rangers. Cruz spent eight seasons in Texas from 2006-13 after a brief debut with Milwaukee.
Texas RHP Glenn Otto (4-2, 4.24 ERA) is set to face RHP Jackson Tetreault (1-1, 5.73) in the series finale. Otto hasn’t pitched since June 4 after getting scratched and going on the COVID-19 list before a scheduled start on June 10. Otto made one rehab appearance. He has won three consecutive starts. Tetreault is set for his third career start.
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