ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It took only one pitch Tuesday night for the Texas Rangers to take the lead in a game for the first time in more than a week.
Ian Kinsler drove Jeremy Hellickson’s first fastball for a home run, and the Rangers went on to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 7-1, breaking a seven-game losing streak.
“Obviously we’ve been fighting from behind a lot in this last week or so,” Kinsler said. “So to be able to get a first hit out of the way, and a first run out of the way, gave (Alexi) Ogando a little bit of breathing room.”
Elvis Andrus felt it from the on-deck circle.
“I think the homer by Ian made the whole team just relax,” he said. “We haven’t scored first in a little while.”
Kinsler and Andrus homered and drove in three runs each to help the Rangers pull even with the Rays at the top of the AL wild-card race.
The Rangers, who held the No. 1 wild-card spot or the AL West lead for most of the summer, won for only the fourth time in 17 games.
“Given the circumstances, it’s a big win,” Kinsler said.
“You’ve got to have a sense of relief when you lose seven in a row and you know you’re a better team than that,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
Kinsler’s 12th home run broke a streak of seven homerless games for the Rangers, their longest in 23 years. The 1-0 lead marked the first time Texas has led in a game since its last victory, on Sept. 8.
Kinsler added a two-run single in the Rangers’ four-run third, driving in three runs on the first two pitches he saw from Helickson (11-9). Andrus followed with his third home run of the season to put the Rangers up 5-0.
“The first pitch of the game was not a good fastball,” Hellickson said. “Then I settled down a bit, but in the third I walked the leadoff guy (Mitch Moreland) and you can’t do that against a lineup like that.”
Ogando (7-4) won in his first start since Aug. 13, giving up two hits in five innings. He had made four relief appearances after spending three weeks on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. Ogando retired the first seven Rays he faced, the last four with strikeouts, before Jose Lobaton homered in the third inning.
Washington said after the game that Ogando will start Sunday at Kansas City.
“Ogando went out there and did way beyond the call of duty, and I think he deserves a lot of credit,” Washington said. “We weren’t expecting five (innings). I was hoping he could go deep, but he gave us five quality innings.”
Leonys Martin doubled twice and added a ninth-inning home run, his eighth of the season.
Rookie Wil Myers had two of Tampa Bay’s four hits.
Hellickson, who is 1-6 in his last nine starts, gave up five earned runs in 2 2-3 innings.
NOTES: Kinsler has led off 29 games with a home run, two this season. … Rangers OF Nelson Cruz, who is suspended for the rest of the regular season, began workouts at the team’s training facility in Arizona. … The Rangers’ 43-33 road record is the best in the majors. … The Rays promoted 32-year-old outfielder Freddy Guzman and added him to the active roster. Guzman has played in 47 major league games, most recently in 2009 with the New York Yankees. … . RHP Jesse Crain, who has been on the DL with a right shoulder strain since the Rays acquired him from the Chicago White Sox on July 29, could be activated as early as Wednesday. … The Rays announced a renewal of their relationship with Montgomery, their Double-A affiliate. They will play an exhibition game on March 29 at Montgomery’s Riverwalk Stadium.