After the game, Matt Joyce was convinced that the ball he hit in the fifth inning to give the A’s a 3-2 lead should have been for extra bases. Instead, it was a 9-4-3 out, and Joyce, rather than being in scoring position with one out, was sitting at first base, having been tagged out by Nick Martinez, pointing down the line in protest.
Afterwards, Joyce explained:
“It hit the chair. For me it was at least a double, possibly a triple down in the corner like that. I don’t know, I just didn’t know the rule and obviously came off the base a little too far. The ball kicked right to Mazara. Just a really weird play. I’m not a fan of that rule right there, I don’t agree with that whatsoever. I’m not the type that’s going to point the finger at anybody, but for a home-team security or the guy that’s on the chair down there, if he can get up and leave the chair and maybe it’ll kick and [that’s] exactly what happened. When their guy hits it down there, obviously he’s going to pick it up. Who knows if that’s what the plan was, but that’s the way it happened. We had a great rally going there. Just weird."
I was not able to confirm any of this independently with the security guard, but if his plan for a Rangers victory tonight was to convince Matt Joyce to hit a go-ahead 2-run single before convincing him to pause-and-point while the play continued, well, perhaps we should all just take a step back and respect his unorthodox-but-clearly-effective magic powers.
There is another theory, one that Joyce didn’t mention, but it seems a little more likely to have contributed to the Rangers 6-5 victory on Saturday: the A’s bullpen was bad, and the Rangers offense has woken up from its Spring hibernation.
“Yeah, you know, everybody’s going to struggle at some point in the season,” Nomar Mazara said after the game “I just try to keep working hard, never give up, and try not to put my head down; come up here every day to do the best I can. I’ve been feeling pretty good the last couple weeks, and we saw the result tonight.”
Mazara’s 7th inning double–his second of the night, a solidly-struck line drive just over the glove of a fully-extended Khris Davis leap–was the capper, bringing in the fifth and sixth runs of the evening. The usually-serene Mazara clapped his hands and celebrated with the sort of abandon we’re not used to seeing from the Big Chill. “It put us on the board, on top, some more runs,” he said later. “Yeah, it always means a lot to bring guys in.”
Ahh, but we’re ahead of ourselves. A lot happened to lead to that one big moment.
Nick Martinez and Sonny Gray, neither of whom had a win this season, were both coming off performances in which they allowed four runs. Martinez’ came in San Diego, and was the last loss the Rangers had suffered. Tonight, both starters were tough, each commanding the ball well and attacking the strike zone with good results. But in baseball, someone must score first, and tonight it was the Rangers,, in the bottom of the third. Joey Gallo walked, and came home on an Elvis Andrus single.
But in the top of the fourth, the A’s struck back immediately. Jed Lowrie doubled, and scored on a Yonder Alonso single. Then, after the two starters had strung together 5 scoreless half-innings, it seemed like each team would be scoring in every half-inning for awhile now. The Rangers took their second lead of the night in the bottom of the fourth, when Robinson Chirinos’ bloop single led to a first-and-third after a Mike Napoli single. Carlos Gomez drove Chirinos home on a ground ball to third base.
In the top of the fifth, it was the infamous chair play, one that Martinez played perfectly, drawing on his old infielder instincts to cover first base and make the tag. “As soon as I saw how aggressive the turn was, I knew I was able to sneak in there (...) I was hoping Odor was going to come up firing, and he did. He made a good throw.”
The A’s added a run in the top of the 7th on a series of bloops, bleeders, and bouncers, and it was 4-2 as the Rangers came to the plate in the bottom of the inning. But then, for the third night in a row, it was comeback time.
Joey Gallo walked. Delino DeShields singled. Then they both moved up a base on a wild pitch. Shin-Soo Choo took a seven-pitch walk to load the bases. And then Elvis Andrus smashed a ball to left field to tie the game.
Not satisfied with a tie (since that is not allowed in baseball anyway; you can’t be satisfied with something that cannot exist), Nomar Mazara hit the go-ahead line drive. Davis’ route wasn’t great. Who knows how the game would have turned out if he had broken backwards instead of to his left. But what happened happened. Davis broke left and the ball went over his head. Joyce rounded the base too far, and he was out. The security guard worked his wizard-magnet skills and the ball bounced off the chair. And Keone Kela–despite allowing an Alonso solo home run–held the lead in the 8th and Matt Bush struck out two en route to getting the save.
The Rangers have won five straight, and will go for the sweep on Sunday afternoon.
Yeah, I think one of the biggest at-bats in that inning was the walk by Gallo, down in the count, didn’t chase, drew the walk. Delino coming through with a base hit, and then the walk Choo, pitching change which set up the opportunity for the rest of the hitters. Inside that inning were some very strong quality at-bats that earlier in the season that we weren’t putting together in those situations, and so we’re kind of on that roll where these guys are, the professional at-bats, the quality at-bats, the patience and the ability to put some pressure on a pitcher and then the guys that are come through came through.
Banister, on Mazara:
Yeah. We were in San Diego, he fouled a ball off to the left side, kind of an indicator that he’s staying behind the ball better and not getting out front, and not spinning off. I think that kind of timing, when you pay attention to it as a hitter, can really pay dividends for you. Staying inside the ball, that bat path that he really needs to be successful. He was able tonight to really get a ball out there, where that kind of timing allowed him to drive the ball in the gap.
I think that this past week has been amazing. We know that we didn’t start the season the way we wanted, but there’s plenty of season ahead, and I think trying to finding that consistency as a team, that’s what we’re looking (for) right now
Andrus, on being 0-for-12 vs. Hendriks:
"I have a good memory but he throws fastballs and I like fastballs. I like that matchup. Anybody who throws fastballs, I like that matchup, especially knowing he is aggressive. I just looked for my pitch and put a good swing on it."
"I felt good out there. Most of the credit goes to Robbie and his game plan. He kept me on track. He and Lucroy having being doing it all year for us. Those guys have done a tremendous job back there. Attacking guys and sticking to the scouting report and communicating during the game, making sure we don’t get off track of what we want to do. Sometimes we can lose track of what we want to do, what our game plan is.
Martinez, on the play at first:
"I know Nap dove for the ball and I saw that Joyce had taken a wide turn. As soon as I saw how aggressive the turn was I was able to sneak in there. Maybe it’s old hat playing the field in my younger days.
I was hoping Odor was going to come up firing and he did."