Huh. I guess everyone was right when they said the Rangers just needed Mike Maddux.
Two games into the road trip of death, and the Rangers are all of a sudden 2-0, winning Saturday’s eleven-inning tug-of-war by a 6-3 mark. Today’s win came, ultimately, thanks to Robinson Chirinos’ three-run home run. But as with all baseball games, there was much more to it than just that.
Let’s start in the fifth inning. Texas had a 1-0 lead, and Martin Perez was breezing through the Nationals lineup. But Adam Lind blooped a single to left field, Michael Taylor singled between third base and shortstop, and Ryan Raburn laced a ball too hard and too directly at Shin-Soo Choo to score the run. The bases were loaded with no outs, and the game seemed primed for Perez to be the first to blink in this pitcher’s duel.
Instead, he breathed.
Not even Kerwin Danley’s obviously blown ball one call could unravel him. Nor when Ryan Rua and Rougned Odor could not decide who should catch the foul ball and so no one did. Not even then did Perez freak out. He simply gathered his wits, tipped his cap, and pulled out an entire family of rabbits, retiring Lobaton (shallow fly ball to right field), Gio Gonzalez (strikeout), and Trea Turner (fly out) to keep the score 1-0.
In the sixth, however, there would be no such magic. After Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy singled to lead off the inning, it was Tony Barnette’s job to abracadabra his way out of the straitjacket. Barnette climbed into a coffin, gave the instructions, and after a sac fly to Anthony Rendon allowed a 2-run home run to Adam Lind.
With the score 3-1, we got to see a couple of entertaining, if not ultimately important-to-the-outcome moments:
Adrian Beltre stole a base, just because he felt like it.
Nomar Mazara hit a foul ball into the Rangers dugout that is only funny because it put a hole in the wall instead of a person.
With those out of the way, it’s time we hold hands, close our eyes, and step into the ninth inning.
It started with a Shin-Soo Choo home run to pull the Rangers to within a run at 3-2. Then Andrus singled and stole second. Adrian Beltre, in the lineup and playing on a sprained ankle for the first time since Tuesday, walked, and was replaced at first by pinch-runner Pete Kozma. Then Nomar Mazara hit a ball that would have cleared the right field wall had it been a mere six inches higher. Instead, it was a game-tying double, and Kozma stood at third as the go-ahead run.
Robinson Chirinos was up next, and it appeared at first that his 9th inning at-bat would be enough to put the Rangers ahead. His fly ball to Bryce Harper was flung back towards the plate at 98.2mph as Kozma sped home. Kozma slid, but the toe of his left spike caught in the dirt an inch or so ahead of the plate. Before his right foot could knock it loose and cross the plate–at least according the the replay center in New York–Jose Lobaton had applied a tag, and Kozma was out. The game remained tied.
In the bottom of the ninth, Stephen Drew pinch-hit a double to lead off the ninth inning, and pinch runner Wilmer Difo moved to third when Alex Claudio entered the game and retired pinch-hitting Matt Wieters on a ground ball. With the walk-off run on third base, Claudio then struck out pinch hitter Brian Goodwin. Two outs.
With the game on the line, Trea Turner laid down a beautiful bunt down the third base line.
But Difo paused.
Claudio snapped up the ball and sprinted at Difo before tossing the ball to Kozma at third, who applied the tag. We would have extra innings.
In the top of the eleventh inning, with two outs already, and only one bench player remaining, Jeff Banister played for now rather than wait for later. He pinch-hit Joey Gallo for Pete Kozma. Gallo responded with a double. After Dusty Baker elected to intentionally walk Mazara, Robinson Chirinos stepped to the plate, swooped his magic cape, said the magic words, and made the ball disappear.
It just cleared the glove of Goodwin in left field, certainly by less space than Mazara’s had not cleared the wall in the ninth inning, and perhaps no more than Kozma’s spike had missed home plate just a few pitches later. But it counted. The Rangers had a 6-3 lead. All that was left was for Keone Kela to face Lind, Taylor, and–with no bench players left–a pinch-hitting pitcher Joe Ross.
Kela struck out all three.
Robinson Chirinos’ 3-run home run in the 11th inning was the Rangers’ first extra-innings home run of three or more runs since Leonys Martin’s walk-off three-run blast in the 10th inning on July 30th, 2013 against the Angels. The last time it happened on the road? Adrian Beltre’s pinch-hit three-run blast in the 11th inning in Cleveland on May 5th, 2012.
Elvis Andrus’ single in the first inning extended his hitting streak to 14 games, which is the longest currently active streak in baseball. The last time a Ranger had a hitting streak of 14 games? Shin-Soo Choo, who did it in May of 2015.
Martin Perez was on the hook for two of the runs allowed in the sixth inning. He allowed 7 hits, struck out 5, and walked just one. About that fifth inning: the last Rangers pitcher to allow 3+ hits to begin an inning, and not allow a run in that inning was Cole Hamels, 4/20/16 against the Astros.