On April 4th, Opening Day, the Rangers were trailing the Seattle Mariners by a score of 2-0. In the fifth inning, Rougned Odor walked, Elvis Andrus reached on an error by Kyle Seager, Robinson Chirinos moved the runners over, Delino DeShields walked, Shin-Soo Choo walked in a run, Prince Fielder got (what would be the Rangers’ only hit of the day) a bloop RBI single, and when Adrian Beltre reached first on an error by Ketel Marte, the Rangers had a 3-2 lead, a lead which would become a one-hit, one-run win. That’s not the sort of sequence you would be wise to bet on happening again, of course, but on that day, it was good enough.
And then, on forty-eight more occasions, they went on to stage comeback wins in a variety of ways you would be foolish to try to predict. Bobby Wilson hit a grand slam. Drew Stubbs hit a walk-off home run. Rougned Odor got a walk-off hit-by-pitch. Time and again, just when it appeared the 2016 Rangers were gasping out their final breath before going dark, they found a way to push a shoulderblade up off the mat, slide out from a chokehold, and scramble to an impossible win.
After today’s 5-3 loss, Texas will soon find out if their magic has run out, or if there is another impossible escape left in this season.
In a bit of irony, today’s loss was the antithesis of that Opening Day win. Texas swatted and spanked 13 base hits to get their 3 runs. Meanwhile, Toronto had fewer than half that amount (6) en route to their 5-run tally. The difference, of course, is that all hits are not created equal. Some of them count for runs all by themselves. That reminder became evident early, when the Blue Jays managed just one hit off Yu Darvish in the first three innings: a 2-run home run by Troy Tulowitzki.
Meanwhile, the Rangers had two runners on in each of the first three innings, unable to drive any of them home. It seemed like any moment, the dam was going to burst, and Texas was going to string together 5-6 hits in an inning, just like the good old days. In the second inning, with Ryan Rua on base, Elvis Andrus singled. He spun his bat towards the Rangers dugout as he sprinted to first. “COME ON!!” he implored.
Nomar Mazara and Carlos Gomez struck out. The inning was over.
Finally, in the 4th inning, a run. Mazara singled, moving to second on a Gomez single. Ian Desmond stood in, and the Blue Jays’ outfield shift left a large gap in left-centerfield. Desmond seemed to aim for the gap, and he hit it, lining a ball that nearly hit Mazara in the head on its way to freedom. But with a run home and runners at first and third, Carlos Beltran grounded out to first base.
Still, the run awakened the crowd at Globe Life Park. There was a sign of hope. A 2-1 game felt much better than 2-0 had. If Darvish could just continue his dominant outin-- *CRACK* went the bat. Kevin Pillar had homered to left field. One batter later, Ezequiel Carrera also homered. It was 4-1. The chokehold tightened. Another batter later, Edwin Encarnacion hit the third home run of the inning.
There is a symmetry in last year’s seventh inning seeing an unheard-of three errors in one inning by an often-brilliant defensive shortstop and this year’s fifth inning seeing an unheard-of three home runs in one inning off of an oft-brilliant pitcher. It makes no sense. Baseball makes no sense.
The Rangers, after having at least two runners on in each previous inning, did not manage a single one in the fifth inning. In the sixth, after a leadoff single, they went in order. In the seventh, however, the game got interesting again. Ian Desmond led off with a double (his third hit of the day), then moved to third on a groundout. Then, with one out, Adrian Beltre hit a ball to Josh Donaldson.
Then he un-paused.
Had Desmond been running on contact, he would have been safe. Had he stuck with the pause, Rougned Odor would have been up with a runner on third. Had Desmond stood on the pitcher’s mound and proclaimed himself High King of Mount Baseball, well, that would also have been a thing with its own set of consequences. There are endless possible outcomes that cease to exist once we choose to make one decision out of infinite choices.
In this universe, Desmond broke for home. Donaldson chose not to take the out at first, but instead threw home. Desmond was tagged out by the narrowest of margins. In fact, it appeared he beat the throw, but his foot bounced an inch or so off the ground before coming down on the plate. In the heartbeat of a bounce, the tag was applied.
“That can be a tough read on a baserunner at third base,” his manager John Gibbons would say later. “If you can cut a run down with an out instead of going to first base, that plays big in games like this.”
In the eighth, still trailing by a 5-1 margin, the Rangers tried to once again slip free of a loss. Pinch-hitting Mitch Moreland scorched a ball that a leaping Edwin Encarnacion could not cleanly field. The ball went into right field, and Mitch ran to second base. Elvis Andrus was next, hitting a low sinking liner that Human/Eagle/Vaccum Kevin Pillar made a nice charging play to catch. Now it was Robinson Chirinos pinch-hitting for Mazara, and he worked a 9-pitch walk. Carlos Gomez was next, and he fired a 102mph missile that provided the game’s most terrifying moment: it was aimed directly at Francisco Liriano’s face.
Liriano’s flinch got his face out of the way, but not the entirety of his shoulder-neck-head area. It was unclear on replays exactly where the ball hit, as Liriano’s shoulders were hunched. What was clear was that the ball hit him so hard that it flew into right field. Liriano would stay upright, but was removed from the game, and later sent to a hospital.
Gomez and Liriano grew up together in the Dominican Republic, and played together in Minnesota, and Gomez would later describe Liriano as "my best friend."
"I tried to text him as soon as the game was over," Gomez would say after the game. "I said, 'Please tell me you're OK.' When I saw it hit him, I was in shock. I wasn't even able to enjoy my base hit."
Health updates will no doubt be forthcoming in the next 24 hours.
Ah, but back to this game. Moreland scored on the liner. The next batter, Desmond, drove home pinch-running Jared Hoying with a groundout. It was 5-3 and Gomez was on third base. Carlos Beltran, so many times a postseason hero, stood in as the tying run.
He struck out swinging on an 85mph slider from Roberto Osuna.
I hope you’re not tired of hearing about missed opportunities, because there was one more.
In the ninth, Adrian Beltre doubled to lead off the inning. Odor struck out, Lucroy popped out, and Moreland popped out to center field. The game was over. The Rangers had the game-tying or game-winning run at the plate in 6 out of 9 innings. They have never led in this series, and now they go to Toronto, down two games to none.
You would be foolish to bet on a Rangers comeback in the best-of-five series.
But having seen forty-nine separate improbabilities play out before my eyes this year, I’m also not ready to bet against it.
"That's so scary. You're trying to hit the ball back up the middle, but you never want to hit anybody anywhere close to their face; when it happens, you feel your heart come out of your chest. He's my best friend. I tried to text him as soon as the game was over, I said, 'Please tell me you're OK. When I saw it hit him, I was in shock. I wasn't even able to enjoy my base hit." - Carlos Gomez on the line drive that hit Francisco Liriano
“We had a lot of opportunities. We had a lot of them. Almost every inning, we had a couple of guys on base, and we couldn’t find a way to get them in. We had a couple of hits, but not enough. I mean, that’s what you want, you want to be in those situations, but what we want to do is make sure you get those runs in.” - Adrian Beltre
"If you look at my previous games, I'm not the kind of pitcher who always keeps the pitches down. Maybe in Japan, you leave pitches up, and you might see guys getting tired, But here, sometimes a high fastball works." _ Yu Darvish, on whether his fastballs being high in the zone were due to fatigue.
"Yeah, I'm partially to blame for all that. I don't know how many runners I left on, but I gotta come through there. I got some good pitches to hit, and I missed them. You're not going to win ballgames like that, you're just not." - Jonathan Lucroy
TEXAS has lost the 1st 2 games of a series for the 3rd time in team history (also 1998 ALDS vs. NYY, 1999 ALDS vs. NYY, and 2010 World Series vs. SF).
YU DARVISH falls to 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA (7 ER/11.2 IP) over 2 career postseason starts…matched a ML record with 4 home runs allowed in a postseason game, 8th instance overall and 1st since MIN’s Rick Reed in Game 3 of the 2002 ALDS vs. OAK (also the only other instance in a Division Series).
IAN DESMOND matched a career postseason high with 3 hits (3x, last 2012 ALDS Game 3 vs. STL)…recorded the 20th game of 3+ hits by a Ranger in a postseason game, 1st since Shin-Soo Choo in Game 4 of the 2015 ALDS vs. TOR (also 3 hits)…also collected his 1st 2 career postseason RBI.
TONY BARNETTE has appeared in each of the 1st 2 games of this series and tossed 3.0 scoreless innings.
RYAN RUA had a pair of singles in his 1st career postseason game.
TORONTO hit 4 home runs to set the franchise postseason record.
J.A. HAPP logged the 1st outing of 5.0+ IP, zero-or-one run allowed, and 9+ hits in the postseason since STL’s John Lackey (6.2 IP, 9 H, 1 R) in Game 6 of the 2013 World Series at BOS…was 1st career postseason victory.
TROY TULOWITZKI has 5 RBI in the 1st 2 games of this series…has 16 postseason RBI as a Blue Jay, T3rd-most in franchise history…is hitting .375 (12-32) with 5 XBH (2 2B, 3B, 2 HR) and 12 RBI in his last 8 postseason games.
ROBERTO OSUNA has converted each of his 1st 2 career save chances in the postseason…his 31 pitches were the 5th-most he has thrown in a relief appearance in his career.
MISCELLANEOUS: Mitch Moreland snapped a 0-for-22 drought in the postseason with a pinch-hit double in the 8th inning…Nomar Mazara (21.164) was the youngest Ranger ever to start a postseason game, 2nd-youngest ever to appear (Jurickson Profar as pinch-hitter in the 2012 Wild Card at 19.228)…Francisco Liriano left the game in the bottom of the 8th inning after he was struck by a line drive off the bat of Carlos Gomez.