Elvis Andrus laid flat on his stomach as a smiling Robinson Cano popped up from his slide into second base, pointed one jubilant finger to the sky, and jogged towards his teammates to join the celebration. The game had been an exhausting flip-flop contest that featured multiple comebacks, an ejection, a few home runs, and one miraculous home-run robbing catch. It was over now, and the Mariners had won, completing the three-game sweep of the Rangers.
A few thousand miles away, a fanbase cracked in two. To one side, there were shades of Cano’s pose, but substituting a grimace for a grin, and leveling the pointed finger from the sky downward until it aimed squarely at the closer and the manager. To the other side, Elvis seemed to have the right idea. It’s been a long weekend, perhaps it was time to just lay down on the floor for a minute.
Sam Dyson is almost certainly no longer the Rangers’ closer. That sentence should probably be accompanied with a photo of today’s newspaper as an assurance that it isn’t some rogue phrase trying to stay relevant a week past its sell date. After the game, Jeff Banister said that Dyson’s appearance in the 9th with a one-run lead wasn’t so much a reinstatement to the role, but “more of a situation that we had kinda run the table with the other set of pitchers, more than anything else.”
I guess it’s best to go back to the start to explain how that happened: After Cole Hamels allowed a run in the first inning on a Nelson Cruz broken-bat single, the Rangers immediately counterpunched in the top of the second. Rougned Odor doubled, Jonathan Lucroy took a pitch to the shirt to earn a free base, and Shin-Soo Choo, who came into the game with a total of no extra base hits, had one very big one by the time he returned to the dugout: a three-run home run.
In the very next inning, again with two runners on base, Choo got his second: a double into the left-field corner that scored two and put the Rangers up 6-1. Fair warning: there are only two more highlights coming after this point.
Cole Hamels has started three games for the Rangers, and three times he has left with a lead. Today, however, Hamels shoulders some of the blame for things going pear-shaped. In the bottom of the third, with an opportunity for a shutdown inning, he instead kicked off the proceedings by hitting Leonys Martin with a pitch. Then Guillermo Heredia hit a soft roller towards third base. Joey Gallo was charging from third, and it appeared he would have a play at first. But Hamels ambled off the mound and tried to field the ball himself. He was unable to cleanly pick it, and suddenly there were two on and no outs.
Mitch Haniger quickly made it none on and no outs. His 3-run homer made it 6-4. Hamels would not give up another run, but he would leave the game after 96 pitches and just 5 innings.
With Hamels out earlier than planned, Banister called on Tony Barnette in the 6th. Barnette and Kyle Seager engaged in a nine-pitch battle, the victor of which would be Seager; he doubled to right-center field. Barnette struck out Taylor Motter, but his first pitch to Danny Valencia was also sent to the gap for a double. It was 6-5.
In the 7th, it was again Heredia wreaking havoc. He led off with a solo home run, and the game was tied. Barnette then struck out Haniger, and Banister played the matchups: Alex Claudio threw one pitch and got one out. Jeremy Jeffress, pitching in his 8th of the 12 Rangers games this season, retired Nelson Cruz on a 2-pitch groundout to keep the game tied.
Texas almost broke the game open. Twice, actually. First in the 7th inning, when Rougned Odor’s two-out bases loaded fly ball landed harmlessly in Haniger’s glove just a few feet short of the right field wall. Then in the 8th, it was again Haniger, this time leaping and snaring a would-be two-run Joey Gallo home run before it could escape the field of play. The Rangers would leave the bases loaded again here, as–after Dan Altavilla walked them full–Andrus would swing and miss at a 2-2 slider.
We all expected Matt Bush would be the closer when he returned to the Rangers from his shoulder injection. But in the 8th inning and the game tied, here came the lava-armed right-hander. He struck out all three Mariners he faced, all of them swinging. He only threw eleven pitches.
In the top of the 9th, as it began to collectively dawn on Ranger fans that Sam Dyson was warming in the bullpen, Nomar Mazara launched a ball that not even Mitch Haniger could haul in. The Big Chill had re-taken the lead for the Rangers, and we all collectively held our breath as we entered the hall of horrors that has been the ninth inning for Texas this season.
Barnette, Claudio, Jeffress, and Bush had already pitched. Mike Hauschild hasn’t been effective, and threw 23 pitches yesterday, and 33 two days before that. Jose Leclerc threw 29 pitches two days ago. So unless you want to call Yu Darvish in to throw an inning left-handed, it was Sam Dyson getting the chance for redemption.
Jarrod Dyson led off, and hit a bouncer that Dyson (Sam) tried to grab with his bare hand. That rarely goes well, and this was no exception. It deflected into stillness, and there was a leadoff runner, who promptly stole second base. Leonys Martin bunted the ball to third, and for the second time on the night, Joey Gallo and a pitcher descended upon the same ball. Dyson pounced on it and looked up, expecting Gallo to be at third to make a play on the lead runner. By the time he realized that the base was unoccupied, save for the oncoming runner, it was too late to make a play at first.
Martin also stole second base, so the Rangers elected to intentionally walk Mike Freeman to load the bases. Still no outs.
Then Dyson walked (who else) Haniger to tie the game.
There was a moment where hope waved as it drove past: Robinson Cano grounded the ball to Rougned Odor, who threw home to retire the lead runner. But the throw was too high for Lucroy to relay it to first base for a double play. He made certain to land on home plate for the one out. Bases still loaded. The double-play escape still a possibility.
Dyson, for all his struggles, did what he tried to do here: Cruz hit a ground ball up the middle. But it was just a little too far to Andrus’ left. He dove and caught the ball, but one out would not prevent the win. It had to be a double play.
And so, he tried to flip the ball from his mitt to Odor covering second.
The ball did not come out cleanly.
Cano popped out of his slide and pointed a finger to the sky.
Andrus laid down.