The Texas Rangers' marketing department is doing all it can to make life at the ballpark more exciting for fans. The players are doing an even better job.
The Rangers beat the Arizona Diamondbacks on the last pitch for the second consecutive game Friday night, this time winning 9-8 when Todd Zeile drew a bases-loaded walk from Dan Plesac with none out in the ninth inning.
"It says a lot about a club when you can win late," Texas' Royce Clayton said. "You have a lot of confidence when you know you're never out of a ballgame."
Wetteland (3-3) came in for the ninth and gave up a leadoff single to Tony Womack and a two-out, RBI single to Matt Williams that tied it at 8. It was his fourth blown save in seven chances, and it cost unbeaten rookie All-Star Jeff Zimmerman his ninth victory.
Texas answered quickly in the bottom of the inning, getting singles by Rusty Greer and Juan Gonzalez off Bobby Chouinard (2-1), then loading the bases when Plesac intentionally walked Rafael Palmeiro. First base was open because of a passed ball by Kelly Stinnett on Plesac's second pitch.
Zeile had a 1-1 count, then took three straight balls -- none of which were close enough to be called strikes on a night when home plate umpire Durwood Merrill had a rather large strike zone.
"It was a fastball. Before that, all sliders," Plesac said of the final pitch. "The last thing you want to do is get a ball up in that situation."
As Greer trotted home with the winning run, fireworks exploded high above center field. The pyrotechnics are one of several new "fan friendly" features the team has added in hopes of boosting attendance. Other stunts include T-shirts launched into the stands and having the team run onto the field to start the game through two rows of Little Leaguers.
But nothing makes fans happier than winning. And this was the 12th time the Rangers have won in their last-at bat, the fifth time they've won in the bottom of the ninth or later at home.
"Any time you win a game late, it can be a momentum-builder," Greer said.
The flip side is how devastating it is to lose late. This was the 12th time the Diamondbacks have been left stranded on the field watching the other team celebrate a last at-bat victory.
"Tying is not done," Arizona manager Buck Showalter said. "You have to take the next step."
The Diamondbacks tied the game at 7 with five runs in the seventh, the last two coming while Zimmerman was on the mound. But because both were inherited runners, it didn't end his scoreless string.
Zimmerman allowed one hit and walked two with a strikeout in 1 2-3 innings, upping his consecutive scoreless innings streak to 23 1-3. He leads all relievers in ERA and batting average against.
Lee Stevens put Zimmerman in position to win with a sacrifice fly that put Texas up 8-7 in the bottom of the seventh.
The Rangers had led 7-2 after scoring seven runs off Armando Reynoso in the fifth, marking the most runs in an inning against Arizona this season.
Arizona's seventh-inning rally helped Reynoso avoid his first loss since April 27. Instead, he got his ninth no-decision in 13 starts.
Arizona took a 2-0 lead on two unearned runs in the fourth off Sele.
- Wetteland has six blown saves this year, five at home.
- Palmeiro walked four times, tying a club record done eight times before. His last two passes were intentional.
- Umpire Dale Ford missed a first-inning call when he ruled that Arizona second baseman Jay Bell tagged Texas' Ivan Rodriguez in the basepath to start a double play. Replays clearly showed Bll didn't come close.
- Dugout coach Bucky Dent managed the Rangers in place of Johnny Oates, who was in Virginia for his son Andy's college graduation.
- Bernard Gilkey has six hits in his last 10 at-bats as a pinch-hitter.
- Mark McLemore was trapped in a sixth-inning rundown between first and second that was scored 1-3-6-4-3-6. A missed tag by second baseman Andy Fox resulted in the final three throws.
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed