Carlos Gomez’ face was contorted into a half-grimace/half smile. When last he had taken a swing at a baseball in a game, it did not end well: a high ankle sprain on September 9th that put him into a walking boot and crutches. Now here he was, having swung at the second pitch he saw, and having heaved the bat skyward in a bat-flip that looked equal parts celebratory and surprised, watching the ball soldier on through the thick Seattle night, into the right field corner.
It was time to run, run, run.
He reached first base, and did not hesitate, not content just to spark a rally with a leadoff base hit in the 8th inning of a tied game, but digging for that ever-important second base, his limp barely noticeable, but his stride measured.
That’s how you know Carlos Gomez isn’t 100%: when the adjective “measured” is used. Once he stood safely on the bag and the ball returned to the infield, Jeff Banister sent Will Middlebrooks trotting out to replace Gomez on the basepaths. His return to the game had lasted two pitches and 180 feet.
Now it was time to rest, rest, rest.
Martin Perez’ last start was against these same Mariners just five days ago in Arlington. He had pitched well for four scoreless innings before allowing two home runs in a three-run fifth inning, and leaving after an out, a single, and a walk in the sixth, having thrown 106 pitches. Tonight, he began his evening in much the same way: scoreless through the first four. But this time, he was holding fast to a 1-0 lead that the offense had given him in the second inning.
If I told you that Joey Gallo had that inning’s lone RBI, you might try to guess the distance or the exit velocity. You’d be wrong if you guessed anything more monstrous than ~180 feet and 80mph. Even less likely was the runner crossing the plate: Adrian Beltre had singled, then gingerly jogged to third base on a Nomar Mazara double. When Jean Segura caught the ball, shifted around to the second baseman’s position, he very well might have been able to throw home in time to get the strained-hamstring-inhibited Beltre. But Segura opted for the out.
So it was with the score 1-0 that Perez’ fifth inning went a little awry. But only a little, this time. Guillermo Heredia singled, and Ben Gamel doubled, and that was that. One run, nothing more.
In the seventh inning, after Perez had stayed on to retire Kyle Seager, it was Tony Barnette’s turn to ride the wild bull that has been the seventh inning in 2017.
Sometimes in bull riding, a rider will stay atop a furious beast with such aplomb that it looks no more taxing than shifting the gears of a luxury sedan.
Other times, the bull uses your body as a short-distance lawn dart.
Barnette’s was some third compromise scenario: he walked pinch-hitter Yonder Alonso, then allowed a single to Mike Zunino. But with runners at first and third and the game still tied at one, the Mariners blinked. Heredia whiffed on a bunt attempt and Robinson Chirinos picked Alonso off at third base. There were now two outs and a runner at first.
What happened next must have been particularly galling for Mariners fans: Heredia singled on the tenth pitch of the at-bat. Were Alonso still at third, the Mariners would lead. Instead, with runners on first and second and two outs, and the rider now nearly unconscious from being slung to and fro for eight full seconds, the buzzer sounded and Gamel flied out to left field to end the inning.
We are caught up to the top of the 8th. After Gomez’ double, Delino DeShields also attempted a bunt and failed.
The first time.
But the second attempt was beautiful, and DeShields beat it out. Runners at first and third, just like the Mariners had a half-inning before. But Texas would score, not just the one (on a Choo sac fly) but both, as Elvis Andrus singled home DeShields.
This game has one more story to tell:
In the bottom of the eighth, Jake Diekman entered with one on and one out, both thanks to Matt Bush. Diekman got the dangerous Robinson Cano to fly out, and with two on, he faced a right-hander capable of tying the game with one swing: Nelson Cruz.
Each pitch to Cruz was more wild than the last. One in the dirt, one a foot outside, one that threatened a seagull who was just trying to purloin some fish from the nearby market. Cruz walked on four pitches, and Kyle Seager came to the plate as the go-ahead run.
He was, understandably, taking.
Diekman put the first pitch on the outside half of the plate. A slider at 80mph.
The second one was on the black of the outside corner. 95.
The third, at 96 and fully in the top outside quadrant of the strike zone, left Seager stunned and standing at home plate as the Rangers left the field, still leading 3-1.
Then in the ninth, in his typical understated and ho-hum fashion, Alex Claudio worked a perfect 1-2-3 inning to end it. The Rangers are now 3.5 games behind the Twins, and with the win, they overtook both the Royals and the Mariners. The Angels, too, lost at home to Cleveland, and so, while the odds are still long and the climb is still steep, there is still yet a little spark of life in the 2017 Texas Rangers.