The Texas Rangers, it would seem, prefer the role of underdog. They’ve fallen into something of a pattern of late: giving the opposition a run or two as a head start, a Tokki to chase. The difference of course, is that the dogs never catch the rabbit. The Rangers have not only been catching the rabbit, but surpassing it. Tonight, they not only caught the rabbit, but it appeared that they took out the frustration of having captured a fake inedible rabbit by shaking it to bits, ripping the bits to shreds, and howling at the moon. It’s a wild August, and the Rangers are a beast awoken.
The head-start began in the first inning. Martin Perez required 40 pitches to get the third out. The first 39 had mixed results (most of them bad). Five hits, two walks, five runs. Jeff Banister admitted after the game that had Perez not retired leadoff hitter Tim Anderson, it was going to be an Austin Bibens-Dirkx night.
Instead, pitch #40 was a fly ball to the warning track, and Delino DeShields tracked it down. Perez would be allowed to remain, and remain he did.
The White Sox would not score another run off Perez until the fifth inning when Jose Abreu’s triple off the right-field wall led to a sac fly. 6 runs in 6 innings is in no way a quality start, but given the way it started, it felt that way by the end of the top of the sixth. Of course, by then, the rabbit was in tatters on the racetrack dirt.
At first, it appeared the Rangers might do it right away. Texas loaded the bases in the first inning, but only managed one run, and that on a groundout. But then came the third: nine men to the plate, a Deshields double that led to a run on an error. A Mike Napoli 2-run double. Then, with two on and two outs, Rougned Odor hit a ball that cleared the right field wall. As his former teammate Derek Holland grimaced, Odor pumped his fist twice in a downward motion. Texas had faced down a 5-0 defitic and turned it into a 6-5 lead.
Perez responded with a two-strikeout 1-2-3 top of the fourth, pounding his bare hand into his mitt to emphasize the final out. Then came the massacre: six more runs, including a Mike Napoli three-run home run, and another Odor shot, this one a line drive into the home run porch, registering at 466 feet, according to Statcast. The inning only ended when, on a Delino DeShields double (his third plate appearance in two innings), Robinson Chirinos blew through a stop sign and tried to score from first. He was thrown out handily, but it was 13-5 by then.
The Rangers had one more three-run homer left in them: Shin Soo Choo did the job in the sixth. It appeared that Elvis Andrus had followed that with an inside-the-park home run, but replay showed that first base umpire James Hoye had called the ball fair despite it having landed two feel foul. Texas scored again in the seventh when Brad Goldberg walked in a run for the second time in the series.
This game had a little something for everyone. Even for those who had asked themselves this question: "Why do the players wear spikes instead of regular shoes?"
In the end, it was another win, keeping pace with the other Wild-Card Would-Bes, beating a team they should beat, and overcoming a sizeable hurdle that they built for themselves. In that sense, this game (and each of the last six wins) have been a microcosm of the 2017 season.
Maybe they just need a hill to climb.