It started off so hopeful.
Shin-Soo Choo crossed home plate in the first inning, having singled, advanced to second base on a passed ball, to third on a wild pitch, and home on a Nomar Mazara groundout. The Rangers had beaten the Astros badly on the previous two days, and a sweep of the Houston would not only keep Texas afloat in the Wild Card race, but would pull them to within 12 games in the division.
Instead, the Astros scored one, then another, then three more runs. Meanwhile the Rangers lost a challenge, then a home run, then a ballgame (and with it, a precious game in the crowded standings). Then, perhaps most importantly, they lost their captain, likely for the foreseeable future.
Yes, as painful as a loss is at this stage of the season, it pales in comparison to what happened in the bottom of the seventh. With a runner on first base and one out, J.D. Davis hit a sharp bouncer to Beltre’s left. The 38-year-old veteran gloved the hopper and turned to throw to first base. Instead, his back stiffened, he looked up at the sky, and came to complete stop as soon as possible. As Manager and Trainer ascended from the dugout, Beltre–usually the one vehemently arguing to stay in the game despite some trivial injury like, oh, a severed leg or a missing head–began walking immediately towards them to exit the game. Later, the news came from the press box: Beltre had a strained left hamstring and would undergo an MRI tomorrow.
For the second consecutive start, Nick Martinez pitched well enough to compete for the win, and for the second consecutive start, that was not enough to earn that win. On each occasion, the offense only scored one run on his behalf. Today, it was a Jose Altuve home run that tied it in the first. In the fourth, Alex Bregman singled and stole second. Jeff Banister elected to challenge the call, insisting that Bregman had been tagged before reaching the base. The evidence was not overwhelming, but it did seem to leave room for the interpretation that Banister's challenge was correct.
New York disagreed, and one out later, a Josh Reddick single gave the Astros a 2-1 lead.
When Tropicana Field was built in 1990, there was no Joey Gallo. In fact, there wasn’t even an MLB team in Tampa. But there was a launchpad known as Cape Canaveral just a 47-minute drive east. So when the Devil Rays began their inaugural season in 1998, and decided on some ground rules, perhaps they can be forgiven for not expecting Hercules to play there someday, but surely they could have consulted their neighbors to the east on how to score such projectile oddities. Common sense would tell you this about a ball that hits the second-largest (or “B”) ring in the roof, not as a sky-high pop foul, but instead as a missile, way over on on the outfield side of the field: that ball has been successfully launched into space, and must be deemed a home run in as veneration to our nation’s great space program.
The Rangers were playing the Houston Astros, for goodness' sake. Alas, Statcast (and the umpires) called Joey Gallo’s blast a 110mph, 405-foot… double. Instead of 2-2, it was 2-1, and would remain that way as Gallo was stranded at second base.
Perhaps the rest of the game would have played out differently had it been tied. Maybe Jeff Banister doesn’t try to get that extra inning out of Jose Leclerc, who walked two to begin his third inning of work, and was removed for Alex Claudio, who eventually allowed three runs to score, bringing us to the final tally of 5-1.
It’s a fool’s errand to wonder what if.
But if Adrian Beltre’s hamstring doesn’t heal and in much less time than it seems it will require, I suspect it won’t be the last time we do it this year.