Let out a collective sigh of relief, North Texas: The Rangers are not going 0-162, they aren’t going 0-21 like the 1988 Orioles, and they didn’t even 0-4 for the first time since 1991.
It looked shaky early, that much is true. A.J. Griffin gave up a fly ball to center field, then another fly ball that would have landed (replays appeared to show) at the feet of Tony Barnette in the Rangers bullpen. Would have. But Carlos Gomez stopped en route to the wall to slip into a phone booth and shed his Clark Kent suit. His last-second leap, arm outstretched, came back fruitful: Matt Joyce was out.
Gomez wasn’t finished in the first inning: he hit a bloop single that triangulated a safe landing place between shortstop, second base, and center field. Rajai Davis trotted in, resigned to the fact that Gomez had singled. But the swell of the crowd grew as Davis approached the ball: Gomez had been sprinting out of the box, and now he was halfway to second. No way. Who gets a bloop double on a ball that lands maybe 75’ beyond second base
Carlos Gomez does. (He actually did it twice in one game: in the sixth inning, determined not to make the same mistake, Davis sprinted in and slid to try to catch the ball. He did not, and the ball bounced past him. We might live to 100 and never see another two-bloop-double-to-short-centerfield game).
Ah but we’re ahead of ourselves: Shin-Soo Choo did the fundamental thing and moved Gomez over to third, and then Nomar Mazara hit a bouncer to first base. Yonder Alonso picked it on a hop, ran to first base (forgot to actually touch the base) and fired a strike home, but it was too late: Gomez slid headfirst through the back corner of the batter’s box, reaching out with his left hand to score the game’s first run. He popped up to one knee and clapped emphatically three times. NOT TONIGHT, LOSING STREAK.
Yes, you saw that correctly up there: Alonso forgot to step on the base. Mazara was safe. Rougned Odor later made the A’s pay for that mistake, hitting his third home run of the season to give the team a 3-0 lead. That was just the beginning.
In the second inning, Joey Gallo and Jurickson Profar both walked, and Gomez was hit by a pitch. With the bases loaded, Choo hit a one-run RBI single, and then Nomar Mazara (who we JUST talked to this afternoon) cracked a screaming opposite-field grand slam. It was his first career grand slam, and the Rangers’ first since Gomez’ last August. It was 8-0, and it was time to dance.
Well, okay, not quite. Griffin, who had a no-hitter through 2⅔ innings, struggled in the third, walking Alonso and hitting Marcus Semien with a 2-1 changeup. Matt Joyce was up again, and this time he ensured that the ball landed well out of Gomez’ glove’s reach.
In the 4th, the noose tightened a little further: Khris Davis led off with a solo home run, which - let’s face it: that’s just going to happen when Khris Davis plays the Rangers. But before long, the bases were loaded again, and Griffin, whose night was probably over already, dove headfirst to try to catch an errant Mazara throw back to the infield. Griffin whiffed the catch, skinned both knees and his right palm, and his night was done.
Enter Bullpen Ace Alex Claudio. The whip-thin wiggle enthusiast got a 4-3 double play and continued his mystifying mastery of American League hitters. Claudio would go 3⅔ innings and keep his 3-game scoreless streak alive. Tony Barnette and Jose Leclerc did the rest of the heavy lifting, allowing just a combined one (unearned) run. Meanwhile, Mazara just kept swinging: his 6th inning single gave him six RBI on the night.
Nomar Mazara is 21 years old, and the Rangers have their first win of the season. Okay, NOW it’s time to dance.