After the game, as the question was asked, Jeff Banister knew what was coming. He nodded along and opened both hands, briefly flashing his baseball-leathered palms to the interview room. His offense had settled back into a thick blanket of futility but somehow, on a series of unusual events (most of which were Padres mistakes) his team had emerged victorious.
“Yeah, no, it’s…” he paused. Sometimes you need games like that.”
By “games like that”, Banister might very well have just said “games wherein the other team is more determined to lose.” Like a house guest that brings an extravagant but undercooked sea bass to a dinner party, the Padres went to great lengths to give their hosts the runs all night.
It began, as all Rangers stories seem to lately, in the top of the first inning. This time it was the visiting Padres who struck first: with two outs, Wil Myers looked utterly confused at the first two pitches before taking three consecutive balls, one of which was preeeetttty close to being a strike, at least according to 24,350 in attendance, and another 40 or so Rangers players, coaches, and staff members.
“If it (had been called) a strike, it (would have been) a strikeout,” Darvish said after the game, while shaking off any implications that it affected what followed. “I gave up a home run. If I took a closer look at it, maybe it was a ball. It is what it is.”
But with the score 1-1, Texas began the first comeback of the night. Shin-Soo Choo singled, and so did Elvis Andrus. With runners at the corners, Texas would proceed to evacuate the inning post-haste. But before they did, the Padres had a gift: Luis Perdomo’s wild pitch allowed Choo to score. 1-1.
In the top of the second inning, another home run. This one came from the bat of Erick Aybar. A single (Hunter Renfroe) and a double (Matt Szczur) later, it was 3-1 Padres. After the inning, Yu Darvish and Jonathan Lucroy had a conversation: Darvish did not have his fastball command, and he and Lucroy agreed to focus predominantly on the slider and cutter.
It worked. Darvish allowed just 3 more hits in his four remaining innings of work: one solid line drive, one infield single, and one bloop single. Darvish walked no one tonight.
And by then he was gone, a planned-ahead shorter outing, the manager would later say, since Darvish's previous few starts had stretched him into some weighty pitch-counts. But by the time he left, the game was tied again, thanks to the Padres again.
In the fourth inning Mike Napoli walked, and then so did Joey Gallo. Delino DeShields outran a double play, and with runners at the corners, Shin-Soo Choo got the Rangers’ only RBI of the night with a single up the middle. 3-2.
Then Choo stole second base, and--side note--it does seem rude to steal from someone who is so intent on giving you everything, but I guess when your record is 14-20, you get greedy. With runners now at second and third, the Padres were in a forgiving move, and in fact had two more gifts to give.
First, Andy Green called for the intentional walk of Nomar Mazara. Second, with the count 1-1 on a soon-to-strikeout Carlos Gomez, Perdomo went to the full windup.
“(Third base coach Tony) Beasley basically told me that when he yelled 'Go’ I was to give him two hard steps,” DeShields explained after the game. “I guess he (Perdomo) balked the same way in his last outing. We tried it earlier with Odor. It just happened to be me. We got the run and it was huge."
DeShields, his smile a “ha ha got you” bouquet of teeth and tongue, trotted home. Thanks to the Rangers scouts and Luis Perdomo, the game was tied.
Then came the seventh inning. DeShields, on base this time via walk, and in scoring position via another walk (SO. MANY. GIFTS.) got to trot home in a relaxed pace again when Elvis Andrus hit what should have been a double-play ball, but was instead a fielder’s choice and an error; score it 5-4-crowd.
After that, it was just a matter of holding a lead, which on any other night could have been a story unto itself, given the bullpen’s early struggles. Earlier this afternoon, Jeff Banister had told the media that for the first time in awhile, all the “names were green” on his bullpen notes: everyone was available.
So of course, after Jeremy Jeffress pitched a scoreless seventh and the Rangers were handed the lead, the first man out of the dugout in the 8th inning with a one-run lead was ...Alex Claudio?
Why not? “Alex has pitched everywhere in the bullpen,” Banister explained afterwards. “We trust what he does, the ‘pitchability’, the ability to throw strikes, get ground balls… we trust the fact that he can get the ball on the ground, and manage the inning for us.”
Claudio got the first two outs, one of them on a soaring leap by Rougned Odor to catch a would-be bloop single, then walked one before Keone Kela entered and got an infield pop-up to end the inning.
The ninth inning has been, in many cases, a weird (bad) aspect to an otherwise just fine game for the Rangers. Tonight it was a just fine aspect to an otherwise weird (good) game for the Rangers. Matt Bush worked around a Manuel Margot double and struck out Corey Spangenberg on an 82mph curveball, after throwing a 100mph fastball for strike one and hitting 94mph on his slider for ball two.
- on how he felt physically: “Coming back from Seattle, it was freezing cold out there. I thought I was going to freeze out there. I came back home, and it was good weather out there. I had fun out there today.”
- on his sixth-inning conversation with Brocail: “I called him to make sure the at we were on the same page as we had planned, how to attack this hitter. Just confirming that so that I could organize myself and attack the hitters as we planned.”
“The Padres actually played better than us tonight, but baseball always is something with the less mistakes, take the extra bases, better baserunning, Delino did it, and you don’t want to give them more than 27 outs, that’s the kind of thing that all together makes for better teams. That’s a good example. We did it all working on it and spring training. That was a good example tonight.”
"We had a couple of conversations in San Diego. The bullpen just needs to get back to our strengths and our stuff will do the job. I felt great. That's what our bullpen is about. How we have each others backs and save runs. Every day Bush goes out there, he is phenomenal."
"When we win it's a good win no matter how we do it. We just did everything we could today to win the game."
TEXAS has won 2 in a row, its 4th win streak of 2017…club is now 9-8 at home, winning 8 of last 12 in Arlington…Rangers moved to 3-7 in one-run games, 1st one-run victory since 4/22 vs. KC, as club had dropped 3 straight...club’s 4 runs scored on a wild pitch, RBI single, balk, and throwing error.
YU DARVISH took a no-decision, exiting with the game tied 3-3 after 6 innings…has exited with Rangers trailing in just one of his 8 starts in 2017…remains at 49 career wins…this was his 8th career start with no walks, 1st since 8/7/16 at HOU…permitted season-high 7 hits, but posted his 4th consecutive quality start, 2nd-longest span since his return from surgery (8 straight, 7/22/16-8/29/16)…hitters leading off innings were 0-for-6 vs. Darvish …allowed an infield single to Matt Szczur with a runner on 2nd base in the 4th inning, ending a string of holding opponents to 0-for-36 with runners in scoring position dating back to September 2016…the 0-for-36 w/ RISP span is a club record, surpassing an 0-for-35 w/ RISP stretch by Charlie Hough in 1989 (credit STATS LLC).
MATT BUSH became the 1st Ranger with multiple saves in ’17, just club’s 4th save of the year…has allowed one unearned run over 8 G/8.0 IP since returning from an injection in his right AC joint on 4/12.
SHIN-SOO CHOO went 3-for-3 with a walk and stolen base …Choo has reached in 11 of his last 14 PA’s: 6-for-9, 4 BB, HBP…following his effort yesterday at SD (1-2, 2 BB, HBP), he is the 1st Ranger to reach safely 4+ times in consecutive games since Adrian Beltre, Sept. 18-19, 2015…Choo owns 2 of the 6 instances of a Ranger reaching 4+ times in 2017 (also one each for DeShields/Gallo/Gomez/Odor)…in 14 home games in ’17, Choo is slashing .347/.448/.510/.958 (17-49) with 9 BB and 10 R.
JONATHAN LUCROY went 2-for-3 with a walk, his 4th multi-hit game of the year, 3 of which have come in May…Lucroy in 7 G this month: .292 (7-24), HR, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 4 BB/1 SO.
ELVIS ANDRUS went 1-for-4 and is hitting .289 (11-38) this month.
SHORTS: Mike Napoli walked to end a career-high 16 G drought without a free pass (last 4/21 vs. KC)…the clubs were a combined 2-for-24 with RISP (TEX: 1-13, SD: 1-11)…Texas bullpen : 3.0 SHO IP.
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