ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Carlos Santana hit a go-ahead, three-run homer in the seventh inning to lead the Milwaukee Brewers to a 9-8 win over the Texas Rangers in a matchup of division leaders on Friday night.
The NL Central-leading Brewers rallied after the AL West-leading Rangers took a 4-3 lead in the sixth on Adolis Garcia’s RBI single that scored Corey Seager from second. Milwaukee then went on to score six unanswered runs over the next two innings.
“This was a tough game, but we won,” said Santana, who has 17 homers. “I’m excited. I’m working hard on my swing, my approach, and trying not to swing at bad pitches.”
The Rangers (72-50) lost a series opener for the first time in August. The Rangers hold a 2½ game lead over Houston, which also lost Friday night, in the division.
The Brewers (66-57) have a two-game lead over the Cincinnati Reds in their division.
Santana’s homer came on a 2-2, 97-mph fastball against Josh Sborz (5-5), who had started the seventh for Texas. Sborz walked Christian Yelich to start the inning, and William Contreras singled to right ahead of the homer, which gave Milwaukee a 6-4 lead.
“Carlos’ home run was his second huge home run on the road trip,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “There were a lot of pressure innings this game, and we did a nice job with that.”
After recording a strikeout, Sborz surrendered a single to Willy Adames, ending his night. Brock Burke coaxed a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.
The Brewers kept the heat on, scoring three more runs in the eighth, building a five-run lead against the highest-scoring team in the American League.
“The last month and a half of the season every game is very important to the team,” Santana said. “We have to try to win every series we can. We have to keep going and finish strong to try to make the playoffs.”
Nathaniel Lowe and Mitch Garver homered in the fourth to pull Texas into a 3-all tie. Lowe’s two-run homer to left followed Corey Seager’s lead-off walk. Garver followed with a one-out solo shot to left-center.
The Rangers scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth to pull within a run before Seager, representing the tying run, flew out to deep center field to end the game. Center fielder Sal Frelick made the running, leaping catch against the wall.
“A lot of fight there at the end, just ran out of runway,” Rangers manager Bruch Bochy said. “So close, just inches. That’s baseball, but you’ve got to love the fight.”
The Brewers led 3-0 after scoring three times on three doubles and a single in the third against Rangers starter Andrew Heaney.
Heaney was replaced with two outs and a runner on in the fourth after throwing 84 pitches. He allowed three runs on seven hits and a walk, with three strikeouts.
It’s the second consecutive start Heaney has been pulled early. He was yanked after struggling through the first 1 ⅓ innings in his previous start on Aug. 12. Manager Bruce Bochy said Heaney was dealing with fatigue from an illness.
“He’s fine. He was just off with the command,” Bochy said. ”(He) got behind in the count a lot. Pitches caught up with him there. It’s going to happen occasionally.”
Chris Stratton allowed one hit over 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief for Texas before making way for Sborz.
Brewers starter Brandon Woodruff, making his fifth start of the season, was replaced with one out and Seager on second after a lead-off double. He allowed four runs on three hits and two walks, with four strikeouts in 5 ⅓ innings. Elvis Peguero (3-4) was the winner.
Rangers starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi threw a 40-pitch bullpen before Friday’s game. Eovaldi has been on the injured list with a right forearm strain since July 30. Manager Bruce Bochy said he’ll be re-evaluated after his throwing session to determine how he’ll progress.
Brewers right-hander Freddy Peralta (9-8, 4.08 ERA) starts Game 2 against Rangers right-hander Dane Dunning (9-4, 3.10).
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