PHOENIX – The likelihood that the Rangers would break out of their June slump against Dan Haren was remote, so once again Wednesday night they needed a strong pitching performance.
Cue right-hander Vicente Padilla, who only three weeks ago was riding baseball’s waiver wire but outdueled Haren as the Rangers snapped their five-game losing streak.
Padilla allowed a run on six hits in seven strong innings, and Frank Francisco and C.J. Wilson preserved the lead with a scoreless inning apiece as the Rangers edged Arizona, 2-1, at Chase Field.
Each time Padilla (6-3) needed to make a pitch in a key spot, he did so. After allowing a run in the fifth, he pitched around a one-out triple by striking out Tony Clark and inducing an inning-ending groundout from Eric Byrnes.
It was Padilla’s fourth consecutive effective start, and it might have been his biggest as the Rangers won for the first time since June 17.
“I see everything getting better each time he takes the baseball,” manager Ron Washington said before the game. “He’s getting healthier. He has pride.”
Padilla’s ERA is 2.16 in his last four starts. Washington doubts that Padilla has felt extra motivation to perform because he had landed on the waiver wire. No team claimed Padilla because of the hefty contract that would have accompanied him and also because of his lack of consistency.
But something has changed for the better, and Wednesday’s effort affirmed that.
Taylor Teagarden had a run-scoring double in the second, and David Murphy singled in Ian Kinsler in the third as the Rangers built an early 2-0 lead against Haren, one of baseball’s stingiest pitchers.
Padilla made the lead hold up through seven innings and 109 pitches. He allowed a run in the fifth but pitched around a one-out triple in the sixth, striking out Tony Clark and getting Eric Byrnes to bounce out.
One key was an early efficiency with his pitches that kept his pitch count from soaring as it had in his past two starts. He needed only 10 pitches in the first and eight in the second, but the Diamondbacks worked him for 59 over the next three.
Padilla’s rebound started June 7 at Boston. The Red Sox tagged him for two runs in the third inning and another in the fourth, but he retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced as the Rangers won, 6-3.
He tossed five scoreless innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 12, earning his fifth victory, and he battled through six innings but got a no-decision June 18 against Houston.
Padilla’s teammates have seen the improvement, too, and it doesn’t matter to them if it’s because he has something to prove after being placed on waivers or simply because he’s healthy.
All that matters is that he continues to pitch well and gives the Rangers a solid 1-2 punch with Kevin Millwood atop the rotation.
“He’s very important,” Kinsler said. “If you’ve got him and Millwood up front, and if those guys are throwing the ball well, it gets our rotation moving nicely and makes it easier on everyone else.”