Well, I wasn’t expecting to admit this, but the Texas Rangers have a chance at the playoffs. Don’t tell them I said that, of course. On July 31st, as Jeff Banister sat at the podium in the interview room in the immediate wake of Yu Darvish’s trade to the Dodgers, he said this: “I don’t care what anyone else thinks, says, or does with what I say on this. You can write whatever you want to, however you want to write it. We still have games to play, and we’re still in the fight. Until they tell us we’re not in the fight anymore, we’re still in the fight. And I relish the fact that some of this is going to go down as ‘Well, the Rangers are now not part of the equation.’ Go ahead. You can’t measure what’s inside a man’s chest; what they’re willing to play for, and what they’re willing to fight for.”
That night, the Rangers lost 6-4 to the Mariners, their third straight loss, and lost again the next day to fall to 50-56. There were only four AL teams with a worse record.
Since then, however, they have done this: a win to end the Seattle series, splits in Minnesota and New York, a series win against Houston, a sweep of Detroit, and a win to start the series against the White Sox. That adds up to 10-4 in their last 14 games. They hit .500 (again) tonight, and they’re now just 1.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot, having leapfrogged over the Orioles and Rays, pulling even with the Mariners.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Tonight, there was just one game, and it was fun for its own reasons, primarily that it was wildly inventive in its ability to inflict chaos upon itself.
Tyson Ross struggled hard in the third inning. He had already allowed a solo home run to Yoan Moncada in the first inning, and while a walk in the second didn’t hurt him, the third began with an error when Elvis Andrus couldn’t transfer the Adam Engel ground ball from mitt to throwing hand. Then Leury Garcia singled, and center fielder Drew Robinson had a similar transfer problem, which precluded him from throwing out Engel at third. Then another walk and a two-run singled. A double play followed, but when Yolmer Sanchez singled home the fourth run of the game, it was looking dire.
But the Rangers have made something of a habit of four-run innings lately. Tonight, it was the bottom of the third. Brett Nicholas hit a two run home run, and then White Sox starter Reynaldo Lopez walked three of the next four batters. Nomar Mazara made him pay with a two-run single to tie the game.
For a sec. Ross allowed another run in the 4th on a Leury Garcia RBI double in an inning that included two more Ross walks, and after his first two walks in the fifth inning, Jeff Banister had seen enough. He called on Austin Bibens-Dirkx, who got two outs in three pitches to slip out of the danger room unscathed.
Texas responded with another 4-run inning that saw two different injured White Sox pitchers. First, Lopez got a visit from Manager Rick Renteria and Head Trainer Herm Schneider, but he convinced them he was okay. But as the duo headed back to the dugout, Lopez appeared to admit something to Jose Abreu, who is apparently a big narc. Abreu immediately raised his hand and tattled on Lopez, bringing Renteria and Schneider all the way back from the foul line to which they had advanced. Lopez was out, and with runners on first and second, Adrian Beltre would now face Chris Beck. Beck threw five pitches to Beltre, the latter of which was rocketed back at him, bouncing off his shoulder and to Moncada at second base. He tried to force out Andrus at second base, but the throw was bad and missed shortstop Tim Anderson. Third baseman Sanchez hustled into shallow left field to back up the play, but in doing so, he left third base wide open, so Andrus outran everyone there.
But even though Beck had just been hit in the shoulder, Renteria and Schneider didn’t bother to come see if he was okay. No one did! Perhaps Beck is known for being Colby Lewis levels of tough, or perhaps everyone was still busy with Lopez and got angry later when they realized no one had told them “OH HEY SOMEONE ELSE IS HURT TOO, NOW. YOU GUYS GOTTA SPLIT UP, SORRY.” Either way, before they could get back out to the field, Beck threw ball one to Mazara, then Maz hit a three-run home run.
8-5 is a good lead. But 8-7 is not as good, and that’s where we were after the top of the 7th, because Matt Bush had a rough night. But the chaos had one more surprise.
In the bottom of the 7th with the bases loaded and two outs, Brett Nicholas hit a foul ball that only just barely made it into the left field stands. Whether or not Leury Garcia would have been able to make the catch is anyone’s guess (I kinda don’t think so), but a fan put his hand in the way and made the decision for him.
The White Sox are from Chicago, and it was a somewhat-rotund white guy in glasses, so everyone took the opportunity to pay homage to Steve Bartman as meanwhile, Brett Nicholas walked to first and Joey Gallo walked home for an insurance run to make it 9-7.
Had it remained there, Generic-Brand Steve Bartman ("Stan Barkman"?) probably wouldn’t have made the story. But of course, baseball took the opportunity to show off just how capricious it can be, even to its own paying customers. Jose Abreu led off the ninth inning with a monstrous home run to left field, and the score was 9-8. Had Garcia made the catch, it would have been a tie game. Instead Alex Claudio retired three of the next four batters, and the Rangers’ win was complete.
We can’t measure what’s in a man’s heart, but we can measure these things: Texas’ win streak moved to 4, their record on this homestand moved to 6-1, and their deficit in the Wild Card standings moved to just 1.5 games. We’ll see you tomorrow for Andrew Cashner vs. James Shields.
BONUS: Jake Diekman pitched in his first rehab start tonight in Frisco!! We have video of Jake speaking after the game in the video below, but here's the line: 1 inning, 3 batters faced, 2 strikeouts, and he was the winning pitcher. Congrats to Jake!