If you’re an objective “fan of the sport, not of a team” type with no skin in the game and no tears in the soil, you probably enjoyed Monday night’s back-and-forth tug-of-war that resulted in a catastrophic come-from-ahead loss for the Rangers. It was objectively captivating, high drama, and all the emotion of a closely-contested battle.
If you’re a fan of the Rangers, tonight was probably more your speed. Texans have seen more than enough close baseball and have gnawed more than enough fingernails for now. We’ll take a 6-1 snoozer that was never really in doubt, thank you very much.
By the thirtieth pitch of the game, the game was as close as it would ever be. The first seventeen came from Nick Martinez, who retired Kevin Pillar, Josh Donaldson, and Jose Bautista in order.
The eighteenth pitch of the game was thrown to Delino DeShields, who bunted it to the epicenter of the grass between Justin Smoak, Francisco Liriano, and Ryan Goins for a single.
“It was my call. I was thinking about it pretty much the whole day,” DeShields said after the game. “After watching video, and seeing how he fell off the mound (after his pitches), I thought it would be a good time… I don’t swing at the first pitch that often, and a lot of people know that.”
On the 26th pitch of the game, DeShields stole second.
The 27th was in the dirt and skittered past Russell Martin, so DeShields bounded over to third.
Adrian Beltre fouled off numbers 28 and 29. And there was nothing special about the ground ball to shortstop that Beltre hit with the thirtieth pitch of the game, other than it was hit just far enough that Tulowitzki’s only play was at first, and Delino DeShields scored to make it 1-0.
We should probably talk about pitch #31 also, which traveled from Liriano’s hand to Carlos Gomez’ bat to the left field seats without even touching the ground. 2-0. Then Odor singled, Lucroy doubled over Pillar’s head in centerfield, and Mike Napoli smashed a ball into the left field grass, and by the time he got halfway between first and second base, it was 4-0.
Of course, by the time he got *all* the way to second base, the inning was over, left-fielder-to-catcher-to-second-baseman. Napoli was out by enough that there was no hint of argument from him.
And that is very nearly enough to give you a sense of how long this game took to decide. Of course, that would be doing a disservice to Nick Martinez, who kept it that way, attacking the strike zone and mixing speeds to great effect tonight. Martinez didn’t leave the game until there was one out in the 7th inning, when he walked Justin Smoak.
Martinez allowed just two hits the entire night, and at the time he left, the score was 5-0 Rangers–the fifth run having been added in the fifth when Nomar Mazara homered for the second consecutive night–and Martinez was un-scored-upon.
Things did get a bit dicey after that. Jose Leclerc, who has been a lifeboat (err, make that a speedboat?) for the Rangers bullpen, walked Tulowitzki, and then walked Martin (in his defense, the strike zone was melting in the humidity by this point, and several pieces had fallen off, rendering a fair judgement of balls and strikes a scientific impossibility.)
With the bases loaded, Steve Pearce had an eleven-pitch at bat. The first seven were foul balls. Number three was over the fence by ten rows, but left of the foul pole by ...a lot less than that. The margin was small enough that the Jays asked for a review-- it was close, but it wasn’t *that* close.
Finally, Leclerc was able to catch Pearce looking at a pitch that appeared to be a few inches off the plate, but like I said: ...Science.
Leclerc did give up a single to Goins that allowed Martinez’ walk to score, but Pillar struck out hacking at a pitch in the dirt. Jonathan Lucroy picked it up and touched home plate. The crisis had been averted.
For good measure, Adrian Beltre hit a home run in the bottom of the 8th to give the Rangers an insurance run. Jeremy Jeffress, Alex Claudio, and Keone Kela didn’t need it, but the thought was nice, especially considering the extra effort it required; Beltre was hobbling a little after fouling a pitch off his left foot earlier in the game.
After the game, Beltre’s gait into the clubhouse was noticably off-center as he limped on the sore foot. "Foul ball, yeah,” he confirmed later. “It was hurting but I'm okay. I don't think it's broken or anything like that. It got me pretty good but other than that I'm okay."
Good. We got all the way through this day without too much drama, and that would have wrecked it all.
The Rangers and Blue Jays play game three of this four-game series on Wednesday at 7:05pm. Joe Biagini will face Tyson Ross.
"Really? I don't really complain to umpires. I joke around with the umpires. If I recall, he was umpiring on Saturday and we were joking around. The pitch was down the middle and I said 'outside' and we laughed about it a bit. He said, 'You might be a good ball player but you'd be a horse (expletive) umpire,' and we laughed at it. It was a joke. I don't think it was anything serious. I don't have any issue with any umpire. I'm pretty honest with the umpire. If I think it's a ball, I'll tell you I'm going to check it out inside. And it's a ball it's a ball, it's a strike it's a strike. Something happened I don't remember who it was at home plate and I thought the pitch was low. I said, 'Wasn't that low?' He said, 'No, it was good.' I went inside and I said, 'You know what, you were right. It was a good pitch.' I've never had any beef with any umpires and Joe West neither. It was a joke. I don't think we had any issue last Saturday when he was here." - Adrian Beltre, responding to an article where Joe West was quoted as saying Adrian Beltre complains more than any other player.
“We have been playing really good; yesterday, we lost. But we don’t need to change anything, just keep getting ready to play. The big key was the way Martinez threw the ball. He was pounding the zone. We were able to score early and allow him to relax and take the pressure off him.” - Carlos Gomez