Some baseball games are fun to watch on a purely objective level. Perhaps a pitcher’s breaking pitches are darting around like impetuous hummingbirds, or the teams are engaged in a tête-à-tête, a back-and-forth battle for the ages with high drama, a patient outcome that waits for the last play to reveal itself. Other baseball games are fun to watch because it’s been a hard day and the team you were rooting for kicked the mess out of the opponent.
Tonight was the latter.
For the second night in a row, the Rangers allowed the Tigers a head start before coming back to take the lead for good. Tonight, it was a second-inning duo of doubles by John Hicks and Jose Iglesias that put Detroit up 1-0, and frankly, it didn’t look like it was going to get better in a hurry. Griffin had already walked two batters in the first inning, and by the time the second inning was over, he had thrown 49 pitches. Meanwhile, Justin Verlander was perfect through his first two innings.
But then came the third. Griffin worked a 1-2-3 inning (sorta; there was a single and a pickoff involved) and Robinson Chirinos hit his 14th home run of the year to tie the game at one each.
Then came the fourth, and another 1-2-3 inning (sorta; there was a single and a double play involved) and then the Rangers finally figured Verlander out. Andrus singled, and one out later, Nomar Mazara singled him home. Then Human MANPAD Rocket Launcher Joey Gallo hit a ball 459 feet into the furthest corner of the home run porch. Not satisfied to observe only, Mike Napoli followed with an authoritative blast of his own to left field, and it was 5-1.
We could stop there, but if the point of sports is to distract us from all the outside stress, it feels like we should dig in and tell as much of this story as we can today, right? Right.
*ahem* Then came the fifth. Griffin worked yet another 1-2-3 inning (What? Oh, oh, right. No, this was just the regular-type) and everything calmed down for awhile. Detroit scrapped back for a couple of runs in the 7th off Tony Barnette when Victor Martinez walked, Hicks doubled off the left field wall, and then each of them scored on subsequent ground ball outs. It was 5-3, and perhaps this was not going to be as enjoyable as we… No no, wait. Here comes the best part.
Rougned Odor led off the bottom of the 7th with a walk. And then, just like he did in the 6th inning last night (and just like Delino DeShields in the 7th inning the night before, against Houston), he stole second base and advanced to third on a throwing error by the catcher. But Chirinos struck out, and DeShields hit a fly ball to right that wasn’t deep enough for Odor to score.
Brad Ausmus called on left-handed reliever Daniel Stumpf, and Odor proceeded to spend the next four pitches being as annoying as possible. He bluffed a steal home, and Stumpf didn’t budge. So, with the count at 2-2 to Shin-Soo Choo, Odor waited until Stumpf’s lead foot came back. As soon as it left the ground, Odor took off. He got a terrific jump, and even if Stumpf had stepped off and thrown home, Odor would likely have been safe.
But he didn’t. The sight of the streaking base runner jolted Stumpf and he tried to hurry his delivery and make a pitch. But he forgot to come set, and home plate umpire John Tumpane called a balk. It was 6-3.
That’s where it would stay for a Matt Bush 1-2-3 top of the 8th, and then in the bottom of the 8th, the floodgates opened. Andrus walked. Beltre doubled him home. (Mazara struck out.) Ausmus intentionally walked Gallo (wouldn’t you?), and then (after a wild pitch put them both in scoring position) Mike Napoli drove them both home with a scorching line drive just beyond the reach of Nicholas Castellanos at third base. Another intentional walk (Odor), then an unintentional one (Chirinos, to load the bases). DeShields struck out, and Choo legged out an infield single to shortstop to score Napoli. The throw was low, and Miguel Cabrera tried unsuccessfully to scoop it, so Odor tried to steal another run. But the unsuccessful scoop served as a flip to the pitcher, who threw home in time to end the inning.
No matter. It was 10-3 by then.
Victor Martinez hit a home run in the 9th off Jason Grilli, but who cares. It was a big win, a fun game to watch, and uhhhhhh hang on. It says here that the Rangers are now just two games out of the second Wild Card spot.
Yes, there are six teams ahead of them, but who among the Royals / Angels / Twins / Rays / Orioles / Mariners do you think has the team to run away and hide with it?
(Yeah, me either)