It is the seventh inning, because it is always the seventh inning. Mike Napoli has–after Alex Claudio’s scoreless top half of the inning–doubled off the left field wall to lead off the inning. The Rangers are tied with the Rays, and manager Jeff Banister sees an opportunity to take a lead. He calls on Pete Kozma to pinch-run for Napoli, who is playing first base tonight. Kozma can play third base, and Joey Gallo can move to first. This is not the first flap of a butterfly’s wings, but it is one of them.
In baseball, as in life, even the tiniest of occurrences have consequences. It’s the theory behind the idea of the “butterfly effect”; that if you were to time-travel to a thousand years ago, you couldn’t help but indelibly alter the entirety of history, even by doing something as tiny as startling a butterfly. The flapping of the wings, seemingly inconsequential at the time, could set into motion a series of events which culminate in a tornado. This is how the theory is explained. Nothing is inconsequential.
It is the seventh inning, because it is always the seventh inning. This time it’s Monday. Tony Barnette is struggling. He gives up the lead, and takes the loss. He will be unavailable on Tuesday, and also on Wednesday, May 31st. Today.
Austin Bibens-Dirkx just hoped to make it five innings in his first MLB start. He nearly did, going 4⅔ innings, and allowing three runs. For the guy that broke Spring Training as your tenth, eleventh, or twelfth starter in the rotation, that’s more than acceptable, especially against the team that leads all of baseball in home runs.
The Rangers scored a run in the first inning, an Elvis Andrus walk leading to an Adrian Beltre sacrifice fly. Steven Souza’s 10th home run of the year re-took the lead for Tampa Bay in the second, and they added to it in the fourth when Evan Longoria followed Corey Dickerson’s double with a single, and it was 3-1.
It is the seventh inning, because of course. If that’s not enough symmetry, it’s May 7th now. Jose Leclerc has been battling a finger bruise and has been unavailable for a few days. With one on and no outs, he replaces Andrew Cashner. The Rangers lead the Mariners 3-0. Leclerc walks Taylor Motter, gets a fielder’s choice, strikes out Mike Freeman, and then walks Jarrod Dyson to load the bases and Jean Segura to make it 3-1. He is removed, placed on the disabled list the next day, and while he will be expected back before the Rangers’ next game, he will still be on the DL and unavailable on May 31st.The Rangers go on to lose the game when they tie it later that inning, and an inning later, Kyle Seager takes Sam Dyson deep to give the Mariners a 4-3 lead, which will be the final.
The Rangers scored a run in the fourth. Adrian Beltre doubled, moved to third on Rougned Odor’s single, and scored when Jonathan Lucroy hit into a double play. They scored again in the fifth when Mike Napoli struck out but reached first base on a wild pitch. Shin-Soo Choo’s single put runners at the corner with one out, and Elvis Andrus outran a double play to allow Napoli’s run to score. It was a marvelous effort, not only by Andrus, but by Choo, whose slide seemed to impede Daniel Robertson’s turn. The game was tied.
It is the seventh inning. May 30th. DIllon Gee is putting the finishing touches on his stellar Rangers debut, in relief of Nick Martinez. What was once a two-on-and-no-out storm is quelled on Gee’s 33rd pitch. He will be unavailable the next day. Today. May 31st.
Jeremy Jeffress and Alex Claudio had already pitched. Keone Kela had pitched on the previous three days, and was also unavailable. And yet, all of that–everything I’ve written here–wouldn’t have mattered tonight if Matt Bush had gotten one more out.
So we return to the seventh inning. Tonight. Pete Kozma is on second base, and the game is tied. Now he is on third base, thanks to a Jared Hoying groundout. And now he is barreling home, thanks to a Choo bouncer to shortstop. But the infield is in, and Tim Beckham’s throw is to the plate, and it is true. Derek Norris catches the ball with his foot directly in front of home plate, and Kozma’s slide is impeded just enough. The tag is applied, and Kozma is out. Choo eventually scores, thanks to another bit of heroics from Elvis Andrus, who does the deed with an RBI double. It is a lead, but it is only a 4-3 lead. A slightly different slide by Kozma, and it would have been 5-3. That would have been better.
Matt Bush got the first two outs with no problem. The crowd stood to its feet. Kevin Kiermaier hit a no-doubt home run, and just like that, the game was tied. Bush retires Evan Longoria on a groundout. 5-3 would have been better. 5-3 would have been enough.
With Tony Barnette, Jose Leclerc, Dillon Gee, Jeremy Jeffress, Alex Claudio, Keone Kela, and Austin Bibens-Dirkx unavailable, and with Matt Bush’s shoulder having been just balky enough that the team will not use him for multiple innings, Jeff Banister had to call on Sam Dyson for the tenth inning. Dyson is having a tough year.
The first batter was Logan Morrison. Logan Morrison hit a home run. It was 5-4. It would have stayed 5-4, except, with two outs, Pete Kozma–he of the pinch-running and the sliding–committed an error to keep the inning alive. The next batter was Derek Norris. He hit a home run also. It was 7-4. A slightly different catch by Kozma, and it would have been 5-4. That would have been better.
Because in the bottom of the 10th inning, it was Adrian Beltre's turn to come up big in a late situation, coming to the plate with runners on first and third, and driving home the lead runner. Now there were runners on first and second and one out. It would have been 5-5. Instead, it was 7-5, so when Rougned Odor grounded into a double play, it was a game-ender.
Yeah, the blame goes to Matt Bush, and to a greater degree, Sam Dyson, who has cost the team enough wins this season that they might already be in an insurmountable hole, now trailing the red-hot Astros by 12 games going into June.
But there’s always more than one place to point.
This one is on the butterflies.