For a minute, it appeared that this game was following the same script as so many before it this season: the Rangers score a lot early, stop scoring, then the opponent scores a lot (plus a little) late and the Rangers log another come-from-ahead loss. But today, Carlos Gomez got to the end of the script, looked up in disbelief, threw it down on the ground and started improvising. The rest of the team followed suit, and the Rangers emerged victorious, winning 10-4 over the Astros and avoiding the four-game sweep in Houston.
ACT I: THE HOT START
Texas gave A.J. Griffin a 4-0 lead before he even threw a pitch today. In the first inning, Rougned Odor hit a home run, then (after a Nomar Mazara single and an Elvis Andrus strikeout) Texas got three consecutive two-out hits: singles by Carlos Gomez and Joey Gallo (the latter with an RBI), and a two run double by Mike Napoli.
With the score on his side, A.J. Griffin took the reins and charged forward, mixing his pitches well and getting 7 strikeouts to just one walk in his five innings of work. After giving up back-to-back singles in the third inning, he struck out the side. Griffin’s afternoon culminated in six Houston hits and two runs (only one earned: a leadoff homer in the 4th by–whom else–Marwin Gonzalez). By the time he exited, Texas led 6-2, having added a run in the top of each of the 2nd and 5th innings. Mazara's sac fly accomplished the former, and the latter was tallied when Andrus was instructed to trot home, thanks to a Brad Peacock balk).
ACT II: THE SLUDGE
Aside from the balk, the Rangers took a rest after the first. From the second-through-fourth innings, while they did get five baserunners, none were on hits (3 walks, 2 Astro errors). In that one-run fifth inning, they took a seat after Mike Napoli’s 45mph lineout to second resulted in a double play: Gomez broke home, and was crossing the plate as Jose Altuve’s throw to third doubled him off. In the sixth and seventh, they went down in order.
Meanwhile, the Astros were creeping.
Tony Barnette came on in relief in the sixth inning, and faced three batters, all of whom singled. With the bases loaded and no one out, Dario Alvarez got pinch-hitter Carlos Beltran to fly to center field for a sacrifice fly (making it 5-3) but walked Josh Reddick to re-load the bases. Now it was Jeremy Jeffress’ turn. His second pitch to Jose Altuve was scorched for a hard grounder to third base, but Joey Gallo snagged the pill, stepped on the bag, and threw to first. It was an inning-ending double play.
But in the seventh, the stomach-churning continued. Jeffress walked Carlos Correa and Brian McCann, then after an Evan Gattis strikeout, he also walked Yulieski Gurriel. The bases were loaded with just one out, the Rangers’ lead was down to two, and here came (all together now) Marwin Gonzalez.
ACT III: WAVE GOODBYE TO ANOTHER LEAD
Gonzalez did his part. His low sinking liner left the bat at 104mph and looked to be either a single on a hop, or–should Gomez dive and allow the ball to pass him by–a bases-clearing, game-tying triple.
Gomez did dive….
ACT III HAS BEEN CANCELLED.
Gomez caught the ball.
And yeah, at the time, that did serve as a run-scoring sacrifice fly, since Gomez had to stop sliding and rolling in the aftermath of his crash-and-burn rescue before he could right himself and throw home. It was 6-4. But it could have been much worse. Keone Kela entered the game now, and acclimated himself to the mound by walking Alex Bregman, but with the bases now loaded again, the 23-year-old right-hander got a massive strikeout of Carlos Beltran to end the inning.
ACT… THERE IS NO ACT. YOUR TICKETS HAVE BEEN REFUNDED AND YOUR DEBTS HAVE BEEN CANCELED. YOUR GOVERNMENT OF SELF-IMPORTANT DESPOTS HAS BEEN REPLACED WITH HUMAN BEINGS. GO. LIVE. LOVE MORE, AND WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
The Rangers had used three pitchers to throw 42 pitches in the bottom of the 7th inning. They had allowed, somewhat miraculously, just one run.
Two pitches into the top of the eighth, the Rangers had gotten topical and landed some insurance. Gomez doubled on the first pitch he saw, and Gallo doubled the total bases on the same number of pitches. The Rangers were scoring late-game runs, and it was 8-4. Later in the inning, Shin-Soo Choo scored on a Delino DeShields double. 9-4.
The bottom of the 8th was hairy as well. Kela walked two more batters, but also struck out two and didn’t allow a run to score.
In the ninth, Elvis Andrus tacked on one run with his fifth home run of the season. Matt Bush pitched a scoreless, if not stress-free ninth (two walks, one single) bottom of the frame, and look at that: the Rangers had maintained a lead-- nay, added to a lead. They avoided the sweep in Houston, and they now fly to Seattle.
We do not yet know if this win will (as the win in Houston on this very date in 2015 did) signal a climb out of an dismal first month-plus of the season, or if it is just a single win in the midst of a disaster of a season. As with most things in baseball, we can only know these things after more time has passed. But a win beats a loss. We’re not promised tomorrow, so for today, it’s okay to enjoy a victory.
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