Hamilton sends K-Rod to walk-off defeat
Closer allows first such homer of career to Majors' RBI leader
ARLINGTON -- Wednesday served as a reminder for Francisco Rodriguez that it's a new month.On the same day he was named the "DHL Presents the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Month Award" for June, Rodriguez served up the first regular season walk-off home run of his career. Up 4-3 with two outs, with Michael Young on second, and a 3-1 count on Major League RBI leader Josh Hamilton, Rodriguez decided against putting Hamilton on base and facing David Murphy with a force at any bag. The decision proved costly as Hamilton lined a curveball from Rodriguez just over the right-field wall to send Rodriguez and the Angels trudging off the field with a 5-4 loss. Rodriguez didn't regret going after Hamilton. "I didn't want to put the go-ahead run on base," Rodriguez said. And Rodriguez went after Hamilton, knowing he didn't have his stuff. Rodriguez began the inning by walking pinch-hitter Ramon Vazquez on four pitches. "For myself, I wasn't locating my pitches," Rodriguez said. "I didn't execute my pitches. When you walk a guy, you get yourself in trouble. Especially the leadoff guy." The blown save was Rodriguez's third of the season and it marked just the third time the Angels have lost this season when leading after eight innings. Rodriguez's command issues didn't concern manager Mike Scioscia, not even against Hamilton. "There's a lot of times Frankie needs some pitches to get himself comfortable," Scioscia said. "He tried to be careful with Hamilton, and he just left a breaking ball up. I think we're good with how Frankie's stuff matches up with Hamilton, but he left that breaking ball up." Scioscia was also against walking Hamilton to get to Murphy, who has 58 RBIs this season. "It's kind of like picking your poison," Scioscia said. But a blown save for Rodriguez was about the last thing that could have been expected the way the Rangers were hitting in the clutch coming into the ninth. Through the first eight innings, Texas had stranded nine runners -- four in scoring position. It seemed every inning Jered Weaver was working himself out of jams. Nevertheless, in six innings, Weaver allowed just two runs, one earned, while leaving eight men on base. "It was one of those nights where I had to make my pitches," Weaver said. "I got myself in trouble, so I had to try to keep the ball in the park. You have to bear down and concentrate on making pitches." For the Angels offense, the problem wasn't leaving men on base -- it was simply getting men on base. Facing Warner Madrigal, a long reliever forced to make a spot start for the Rangers, the Angels scored just one run in his three innings. The Rangers used a Spring Training-type pitching strategy, stringing four relievers together over nine innings, but the Angels weren't able to capitalize. "We were trying," Scioscia said. "We were hitting some balls, but they were just going right at guys. We expected them to use that strategy, but we were playing baseball, so you never quite know what's going to happen." The second and fourth innings were the only ones in which the Angels got their leadoff man on. As a result, those were the only innings in which they scored until the seventh. In the seventh, Juan Rivera -- in the starting lineup for a slumping Gary Matthews Jr. -- hit a two-run home run to left-center field to give the Angels a 4-2 lead. It looked as though Rivera would be crowned hero for a night as Rodriguez strolled to the mound with that two-run cushion in the ninth. Instead, Rivera's crown became Rodriguez's burden when the pitcher's 21st offering of the ninth inning skimmed over the right-field wall. "It's never easy scoring off their closer," Young said. "He's one of the best in the game, but we were able to chip away and give Josh a chance." The burden weighed heavily on Rodriguez's shoulders after the game, but he was confident the blown save wouldn't stick with him beyond Wednesday night. "I don't think about it," Rodriguez said. "I just try to move on from here."
Shawn Shroyer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.