ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Ron Washington took a seat in the home dugout at Texas' stadium for the first time Saturday and enjoyed the view.
"It's a beautiful ballpark," he said.A few hours later, his Rangers beat the Milwaukee Brewers 4-3 on Nelson Cruz's one-out homer in the bottom of the ninth inning.Robinson Tejeda yielded one hit in five shutout innings and Michael Young also hit a solo home run for the Rangers. Ian Kinsler had three hits and two RBI in the final exhibition game for both teams.Washington visited the road dugout in Arlington many times during his 11 seasons as a coach with the Oakland Athletics before Texas hired him last November to succeed the fired Buck Showalter.Washington admits he'll have a few jitters before the regular-season opener on the road against the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night."I just hope I can make it to home plate," Washington said. "I know I'll have wobbly knees, I'll have a queasiness in my stomach. But once the first pitch is thrown and the first sign is put on and the first execution of that sign is done, it'll be like riding a bicycle."The Rangers turned to Washington as the 17th full-time manager in their history in the hope that his enthusiasm would be contagious.So far, his players have responded.Washington thinks the Rangers will hit. They usually do. Pitching's been the problem. If Texas is to break a string of seven straight seasons without a playoff appearance, the Rangers will need improved work on the mound.For Washington, pitching and defense will make or break the Rangers in 2007. Those were the hallmarks of the A's during Washington's tenure in Oakland."Our biggest strength has always been offense but I think our strength now, surprisingly, will be our pitching," Washington said. "I look forward to those guys keeping us in ballgames. If we do that, success is right around the corner."Offense can be stopped. You've got to pitch and catch the ball. Pitching and defense show up every day. In Oakland we were last in run production for two or three straight years, but two of those years we won the division. Why? Because we pitched and caught the ball. We led the league in defense back-to-back and were up there in pitching. That's the difference right there."Washington expressed confidence that the Rangers can make the playoffs."I have no doubt about that," he said. "We're going into this season not looking back, looking forward. A winning attitude starts with waking up in the morning. Once you wake up, you've got a winning attitude because you've survived another day."The Rangers completed their exhibition schedule 16-11. Milwaukee finished 13-17.Both teams opened with most of their starting position players before the managers cleared their benches in the late innings.Milwaukee tied it at 3 with a two-run ninth.The Brewers open their season at home Monday against the Los Angeles Dodgers with right-hander Ben Sheets on the mound for Milwaukee.
Rangers relievers got in their work in a simulated game earlier on Saturday because Friday night's exhibition against the Brewers was rained out. Closer Eric Gagne, who'll open the season on the DL as he continues his recovery from back problems, threw 15 pitches in his one-inning stint. ... The Rangers had runners at first and third with none out in the first before Brewers starter Dave Bush struck out Young, Mark Teixeira and Sammy Sosa in succession. ... Sosa nearly homered in the third when his line drive hit just below the yellow line above the left-field scoreboard. He had to settle for a double. ... Milwaukee's Prince Fielder was ejected in the ninth for protesting a check-swing third strike called by plate umpire Angel Campos.