Exactly one year ago, DIllon Gee was on this same mound, in this same stadium. He was not the only member of the Rangers who had been present at that game (a 7-5 Rangers win, sealed when Lewis Brinson hit a walk-off three-run home run). But this time when Delino DeShields stepped to the plate to lead off the bottom of the first inning, Dillon Gee had already thrown a perfect 1-2-3 inning. Last March 18th, he was the one pitching to DeShields.
Like last year, Gee is scrapping. He is fighting for a spot in the rotation, and while the number of competitors was at one point as high as eight, there now seem to be just three; maybe four, depending on how you feel about Nick Martinez being able to overcome his last couple of starts.
For three innings today, it appeared that Gee, like A.J. Griffin before him, was going to take a firm grip on his ticket to Arlington. Three up, three down in the first. Just one harmless single in the second. Working around a single and a double for a scoreless third.
But somewhere between the third and the fourth innings, something went wrong. With the Rangers leading 4-0 (thanks to a Cesar Puello 3-run home run and a Will Middlebrooks RBI single), Abraham Almonte led off the inning with a single off the right field wall.
It is tempting to automatically turn for second when you see a ball in the right field gap hit the wall. But the Alamodome is no normal playing field: with the right-field wall so close to home plate, Almonte wisely chose to stay at first. The next batter, Chris Colabello, also hit a ball to nearly the exact same place. But where Almonte showed discretion, Colabello was cavalier. He turned and made designs on second base. He was out on arrival, thrown out by Puello.
But the inning would continue. Daniel Robertson singled Almonte home. Michael Martinez walked. And had it not been for a wild pitch, perhaps Eric Stamets’ ground ball to third would have been the start of a step-on-the-bag-and-throw, 5-3 inning-ending double play. But in this universe, with runners on first and third, Middlebrooks appeared to be planning on throwing the ball home. Instead, he ran past it and another run scored. Gee hit a batter. Then another. It was 4-3, and his day was over.
“It started off fine,” Gee would say later. “I felt good and was locating all of my pitches. I just felt like I ran out of gas as the pitch count went up. Overall, I’m healthy. So that’s good.”
Much like last year’s game (and–let’s face it–most Spring Training games since), today’s outcome hinged on the bats of minor leaguers. With the game tied at 4 in the bottom of the 7th inning, Scott Heineman homered to retake the lead for Texas. Later, Alex Burg hit a monster shot to dead center field to give Texas two insurance runs. Chuck Moorman(in his first Spring at-bat in a big-league game) tacked on one more with a solo shot. Meanwhile, Brady Dragmire and R.J. Alvarez locked down the back end of the game from the mound. The Rangers won 8-4.
Gee was long gone by then, of course. His day ended–as it had last year–without a decision.
That particular phrase shouldn’t have a double meaning for too much longer.