ARLINGTON, Texas (Reuters) - The Texas Rangers found their home run stroke to beat the San Francisco Giants 4-2 in Game Three of the World Series Saturday and draw within 2-1 in the best-of-seven showdown.
After dropping the opening two games in San Francisco, the second by a humbling 9-0 score, Texas regained their swagger in a happy homecoming that was cheered on by a red-clad crowd of more than 52,000 in hitting-friendly Rangers Ballpark.
Rookie Mitch Moreland slugged a three-run homer in the second inning and Josh Hamilton belted a long solo shot in the fifth to back the strong pitching of Colby Lewis in a crucial game for the Rangers.
“That was a huge home run for us tonight,” Texas manager Ron Washington said of Moreland’s blast. “That gave us a little breathing room.”
The Rangers, who led the American League in batting average during the regular season, were hitting an anemic .227 in the Series without a single home run.
With their backs to the wall, in danger of falling behind 3-0 in the Series, the Rangers fired the first serious shot of Game Three with Moreland’s blast after a battle royale against Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez.
The left-hand hitting Moreland hung in against southpaw Sanchez, fouling off four balls, including two foul-tips to narrowly avoid striking out, before clearing the fence in right field with men on first and third.
Hamilton, who had been held in check by the Giants, broke out with a monster shot to the second deck in right-center with two outs in the fifth, the blast measuring a mighty 426 feet.
Lewis once again served as a slump stopper for Texas, throwing seven and two-thirds innings of five-hit ball to get the win, preserved by relievers Darren O’Day and rookie closer Neftali Feliz, who registered the save.
“Their guy threw well,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. “He threw a nice game for them.”
Lewis, who also won two games for Texas following defeats to the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series, registered six strikeouts as he improved to 3-0 in the postseason.
“That just goes to show you that he’s prepared,” manager Washington said of Lewis, who pitched the last two seasons in Japan. “He knows what he has to do. He executes.”
Hamilton also praised the clutch performances from Lewis.
“He’s been tremendous,” said Hamilton. “His focus level, the intensity when you see him go out there, he’s on a mission and he’s pitched well.”
Cody Ross, who claimed National League Championship MVP honours in San Francisco’s victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, homered in the seventh, and Andres Torres cleared the fence in the eighth for the Giants’ runs.
Feliz came on in the ninth, and hitting 99 miles per hour with his fastball, struck out Juan Uribe for the last out, triggering fireworks as the 22-year-old Dominican became the second-youngest pitcher to record a World Series save.
The youngest to get a Series save was sitting in the front row near the Texas dugout — Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, now the team president and part-owner, who rose to his feet alongside from ex-Rangers owner George W. Bush, the former U.S. president.
Game Four will be played Sunday in Texas with Game Five scheduled for Monday before the series shifts back to San Francisco, if needed.
Editing by Steve Ginsburg