Today’s baseball match between the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners was quite a buffet of baseball, including a little something for everyone. Here, I shall try to describe it to you by genre.
1. POWER TIME
Maybe you like your baseball with the flavor of char-grilled steaks and loud trucks. If that’s your particular rock and roll anthem, then you probably enjoyed Carlos Gomez’ two-run blast to tie the game in the third inning. Perhaps better was Ryan Rua’s gonzo blast in the fourth: it hit the top of the center field berm, an estimated 450 feet from home plate. That one gave Texas a 3-2 lead that would be the final. But we’re not done: Matt Bush came on in relief in the 6th inning and touched 97 in his two perfect innings of work. Following him in the 8th: Keone Kela also touched 96mph. Of note, these two fireballers came on in relief of Eddie Gamboa, which leads us to our next genre
2. UNDERDOGS AND ODDITIES
Gamboa not only throws a knuckleball, but he throws it three different speeds. The Rangers haven’t had a knuckleballer on the roster since R.A. Dickey, who waited until he left Texas to become successful. That was way back in 2005, and while Gamboa isn’t likely to make the big league roster (he came into today trailing A.J. Griffin, Mike Hauschild, Dillon Gee, and Nick Martinez for a rotation spot) he certainly stated his case today, allowing just 2 runs (both unearned) in five innings, striking out 6, and somehow harnessing the knuckleball to limit the walks to a single one (though he did also hit a batter).
Even the two unearned runs that Gamboa did allow were weird in nature. The first reached base on an error by the usually-surehanded Doug Bernier, then after a couple of soft-contact hits, the second run scored when, with runners on second and third and two outs, Tyler O'Neill blipped a ball into no-man's land between Gamboa, Rua at first, and Drew Robinson at second. The exit velocity couldn't have been more than 45 mph, but he was safe at first as the run scored. But Mitch Haniger tried
--hang on, this needs its own paragraph--
Mitch Haniger tried to score from second on a ball that barely reached the infield dirt.
He was thrown out with an of-coursedness not often seen in baseball.
Delino DeShields also kept the pressure on the front office to put his name on the Opening Day roster. DeShields started the game with an 0-2 count before singling to right field, and he promptly stole second base. In the third, he again started with an 0-2 defecit, but fouled off a couple of two-strike pitches en route to a full count before hitting a ball to the left of Mariners third baseman Danny Valencia. Valencia was able to glove it, but as he spun to right himself for the throw, something (centrifugal force) caused the ball to come loose. DeShields was safe on the E5, and well: he just prefers second base to first. He stole it again, scoring on Gomez’ home run.
If we’re learned nothing else from office party White Elephant gift exchanges, it’s that if DeShields had stolen second base for a third time, he would have gotten to keep it. But after he beat out a bunt single in the second, he didn’t have a chance: Shin-Soo Choo singled him over to third, though both would be stranded.
4. DEFENSE IS BALLET
It was no Adam Jones Renaissance Art, but in the 8th inning, Rangers minor leaguer Ti’Quan Forbes (playing third base) made a beautiful diving stop on a Luis Liberato smash into the hole between third and shortstop. He popped up and made a perfect throw for the out.
5. ROSTER INTRIGUE
Yeah, so is there a place for Eddie Gamboa on the roster? Probably not, but it’s not impossible to think that he’s an intriguing swingman/bullpen candidate, if the Rangers are okay with only having one lefty (Alex Claudio) in the bullpen. But Wesley Wright and Dario Alvarez have both been stellar this Spring, and we already outlined the competition for the rotation. It’s most likely that we see Gamboa in Round Rock to start the season, but don’t be at all surprised to see him in Arlington at some point in 2017.
Meanwhile, Ryan Rua and Delino DeShields both just keep making waves in the battle for left field playing time, but the favorite to be the most-of-the-time starter might not even be in camp right now: Jurickson Profar is having a torrid World Baseball Classic.
And what of Drew Robinson? Eh?
6. A WIN!
Spring Training games don’t count, but a win is always better than a loss. The Rangers, despite a miserable record to start the Cactus League, have been winning more than losing lately, and who doesn’t like that?