On Thursday night, the Rangers entered the bottom of the ninth inning trailing 2-1, and finished the night with fireworks exploding overhead as a 3-run home run sealed a come-from-behind walk-off 5-2 victory.
On Friday night… [copy/paste]... plus there were fireworks.
Tonight’s hero was Joey Gallo, who hit a ball that Statcast said had the trajectory to go 404 feet. In non-theoretical math, it went precisely 325 feet before taking a hard left, having bounced off the right field foul pole. Gallo, too, was taking a hard left, bouncing off first base, smiling as big as the ballpark, having executed his first big-league walk-off hit in majestic fashion.
But first, there was a game of minutiae and the smallest of inches that led up to the grand 404-foot finale.
The narrow margins started with Andrew Cashner, who continued to master the strike zone and pitch to contact, sometimes the kind of contact that missed being harmful by millimeters on the bat. Likewise, A’s starter Jesse Hahn flirted with disaster by putting runners on base every inning. But four innings came and went without a single run scored.
In the fifth, something finally budged: a 3-2 pitch that Matt Joyce "budged" into the right field seats. It was 1-0 A’s, but it wouldn’t stay that way for long.
In the bottom of the inning, Carlos Gomez led off the inning with a double down the left field line. One pitch later, Hahn spun and tried to catch Gomez off the bag, but the ball clanged off Adam Rosales’ glove and juked into shallow right field. Gomez at first seemed distrusting of the ball, which didn’t initially seem to have the separation to allow for an advancement. But it just kept rolling. The fleet-footed center fielder hustled to third base, and one batter later, after a Gallo walk, he again waited until the last possible second, sprinting home on a Delino DeShields sacrifice bunt. The ball was fielded cleanly by Hahn, but the toss was a little late, or a little high, or both. Gomez deftly slid under the tag and tied the game.
The A’s retook the lead in the 7th. Alex Claudio have up a hard smash single to Trevor Plouffe on a ball that short-hopped Elvis Andrus’ glove and skittered into left field. Bob Melvin called for a pinch-hitter, Mark Canha. Banister countered by bringing in Jeremy Jeffress, who had not allowed an inherited runner to score this season.
Canha’s double narrowly evaded the leap of Gallo at third and managed to sneak just inside the foul line. Then it bounced off the wall and DeShields’ foot, and while it didn’t carom very far, the slight delay was just enough: Elvis Andrus’ relay throw was technically in time, but wobbled out of Jonathan Lucroy’s glove. Plouffe was safe, and the score would stay 2-1 until the bottom of the 9th, thanks to Keone Kela’s two innings of scoreless, hitless relief.
Then came the remix of the previous night’s celebrations. Thursday night, Elvis Andrus singled and advanced to third on a bloop single to center field by Jonathan Lucroy. Friday night, Lucroy led off with a single, and pinch-runner Pete Kozma advanced to third on a bloop single by Rougned Odor.
Thursday night, it was Odor who slashed an opposite field single to tie the game, bringing Mike Napoli to the plate. Friday night, with Odor now on first and Kozma on third, it was Napoli with the game-tying sacrifice fly. A Carlos Gomez double later, and there were runners on second and third with one out for Joey Gallo.
The comparisons diverge here. Thursday night: Napoli’s blast to the upper deck was on the first pitch. Friday, Gallo worked a full count, laying off at least one tempting slider in the dirt before getting an 82mph knuckle curve from A’s closer Santiago Casilla that he blasted to the foul pole in right field.
Another walk-off. Another 2-1 deficit turned into a 5-2 victory. Another win. Another step closer to .500, and another position higher in the standings: with the win, the Rangers and A’s traded places in the AL West standings. The Rangers are no longer in last place.
Jeff Banister, on Gomez:
Well, there was a lot of energy really. Anytime that Carlos is going well, and things are happening, he’s been working hard, trying to stay inside the ball, drive the ball the other way. But just the at-bats, the energy and the defense, it really is _ we’ve got a number of guys in that dugout that really do that. But yeah, set a nice tone for us.
Banister, on Gallo's disciplined at-bat in the 9th:
Yes it was. I believe it’s one of those at-bats for the young player that’s finding his way in the big leagues to not chase at some of the chase pitches, not chase a fastball up, the split down, to continue to look for something that he could drive, stay extremely patient. One of the better patient at-bats that we’ve seen from Joe, and then an incredible swing on a pitch. I feel like he didn’t get too big, stayed on the ball, showed the type of power that he has. Talked about before, it’s one of those grow-up moments for a young player. Incredible, I think a lot of confidence building for a guy that’s filling in for a future Hall of Famer right now. Look, I believe he’s still leading our team in home runs and RBI.
Banister, on the pitching:
Yeah, I felt like Cash, good stuff tonight, the fastball, change, slider. Battled, kind in that 6 through 9 batter area, think 44 total pitches in that area, worked from behind, was able to get back to some pitchers’ counts, just grind it through, gave us close to 100 pitches, a mark that he hasn’t been to this year, but made pitches when he needed to. Claudio came in, felt like he .. knew they were going to flip, go right-handed. Kind of set it up for Jeffress, felt like that the pitch that kind of got it down in the count, tried to throw a split finger down, left it up, hit the double to score the run, however was able to record the next outs.
Kela, the job he did, after the walk, really came back, got back into the counts, used the big fastball, curveball, I thought the second inning obviously was the best inning, to go back out, something that we’ve been challenged with in some regards in that area when some of those go back for that second inning _ gunslingers with such high adrenaline when they come in in that first inning, they’re spinning their energy, and he was able to regain some of that, calm yourself down, throw strikes, get some outs, and gave us _ kept the score right where it was, gave us an opportunity for that set of hitters to come into the ninth there and really put some great at-bats together.
I battled in some counts, made some pitches when I needed to. Great defense and great game called by Lucroy. I think we’re finally hitting a stride where he knows what I can do, knows what I want to do." (on the lack of run support) "Run support doesn’t matter, team wins is what matters. The defense has picked me up in a lot of big spots. The wins will come, but team wins are more important.
Walk-offs are always the best. The energy coming in for the next day and that’s what we need right now.
"The big thing is I wanted to make sure he threw me strikes and not swing and hope it was a strike and get myself out."
I was definitely wondering why they didn't put me on. Maybe they knew something I didn't know, I guess I've got a big weakness. I just wanted to get the run home. I didn't want to put one out of the stadium, just a blooper or a pop up, anything to get the run home."
"this is cooler than my debut. There is something about hitting a walk-off home run, everybody goes home happy. It was a lot of fun."
"It was a terrific feeling. I just looked into the dugout and everybody was screaming. A packed house...I was very excited about it."