When I was a small child, I used to try to think up questions that I knew would be impossible to answer. How many breaths does the average person take in a lifetime? How many human beings have ever lived? What is the pH balance of spit? Who invented straws?
Of course, I grew up before Google. Now we can answer almost any question we can imagine. But occasionally, I still come up with one that I’m certain I’ll never be able to answer. Here’s one that I thought of today: I wonder what the total distance is–measurable feet and inches–between a losing season and a pennant? Not every break would have to go your way, just enough of them to win the division.
Today’s game is a perfect example. In the first inning, Adrian Beltre came to the plate with two on and one out and hit a three-run home run to left field to give the Rangers a 3-0 lead in the first inning. A strikeout and a hit-by-pitch later, Joey Gallo hit his 30th homer of the year, and it was 5-0 Rangers.
Ignoring for a moment that if this experiment were in play, today would have been Yu Darvish’s turn in the rotation, meaning that those home runs would have instead have been flyball outs, since there is a state-senate-ratified law against scoring five runs in the first inning of a Yu Darvish start, let’s assume everything else goes mostly the same. Nick Martinez strikes out three in the first inning, and two more in the second inning, despite a 32-minute rain delay.
But in the real world, Martinez also gave up two 2-run home runs in the second inning. What’s the difference between a pitch that gets hit for a home run and a pitch that becomes a pop-up or a grounder? An inch? Two inches? 1,219 miles? Any any rate, the Rangers still led, 5-4. But after that prodigious first inning, the bats simply stopped making good contact. Jose Berrios figured out whatever was ailing him in the first inning and slammed on the brakes.
Meanwhile, Eddie Rosario also homered, this one in the third inning to tie things up at five. In the bottom of the fourth, one of the close plays went Texas’ way when, with a runner on first, Carlos Gomez took flight and captured a Jason Castro fly ball before banging hard into the center field wall. That catch saved a run, but the tie would only last for another inning.
In the fifth, with Austin Bibens-Dirkx now on the mound, Joe Mauer walked. He was eventually replaced on the basepaths by Eduardo Escobar via the 3-6 fielder’s choice, but after stealing second base, he was able to score when Robbie Grossman swatted a ball off the right field wall. Shin-Soo Choo played the carom perfectly, barehanding the ball and throwing Grossman out at second, but the run (confirmed by replay) had scored before Grossman was tagged out. Back to the exercise: we’d be asking for maybe another couple of feet worth of wishes.
Back to the third inning for a second: with the count at 2-1, Mike Napoli fouled a screamer that bounced once en route to the Rangers’ dugout, then hit Adrian Beltre in the back of the head. Beltre, nursing a bump on the back of his haid, said after the game that he didn’t get his hand up because he only had time to turn his head to prevent the ball from hitting him in the face. Hand on head, he immediately retreated down the tunnel and into the clubhouse, followed closely by trainer Kevin Harmon. Because he was the designated hitter, we didn’t know for quite some time if the future Hall of Famer was okay. While the team took the field, the training staff put Beltre through concussion protocol. In the top of the 5th, he returned to the dugout and began putting on batting gloves.
In that first at-bat back, with runners on second and third, Beltre hit a 99mph grounder to shortstop. Give him two feet either way, and the Rangers are in business, but this one was aimed right at Jorge Polanco, who threw home. Shin-Soo Choo didn’t stand a chance, and after a Rougned Odor fly out to right, the inning ended with a zero on the board.
And it was Beltre again in the seventh inning, with Elvis Andrus on second base and two outs, who hit a line drive up the middle. But Ehire Adrianza, in the game because Brian Dozier had left an inning earlier with illness, broke hard to his right, leaning, leaning, and ultimately latching on to the 70mph liner. That would have tied the game had it found grass, had it been hit a half-inch differently on the bat, or two feet further towards left field.
I’ll leave it to you to decide the grand total of measurable space the Rangers would have needed today, and for that matter, for the rest of the season to be in the hunt. For now, it’s another loss, another little frustration, another bump in the chair, another rock in the shoe. Now, the Rangers will board their own flight for a 1,219-mile-away destination, and hope to make hay against another team suffering through a season that hasn’t gone according to plan.