It started, like most good stories do, with an infield single by Delino DeShields. His bouncer clipped the bottom of Yovani Gallardo’s shoe and bounded out towards second base. That happened at roughly 9:11pm Texas time. A few minutes later, with DeShields on second base thanks to a Nomar Mazara groundout, Elvis Andrus (cleanup hitter for the third time this season) hit a ball that was ruled to be a foul ball. But Jeff Banister asked for a replay, hypothesizing that Ben Gamel’s glove had touched the ball while Gamel was still in fair territory.
Banister was right. DeShields scored, and Andrus was on second with a ground rule double.
That, of course, is a legend. It happened so long ago, no one can be sure of the veracity of the story you have just been told. Perhaps there were dinosaurs around whose fossils could give us a further clue into the details. But until then, we must be satisfied with what we can piece together from the cuneiform scrawled on the inner walls of SafeCo Park.
This much we do know: At 1:56am Texas time, with DeShields again on base (this time via walk), Rougned Odor swung hard at a 1-0 pitch, and as he lowered his gaze and began to trot, and as he did so, almost as a flinch reaction, he put his right hand up to his head, as if to squelch an exuberant celebration. It was the top of the 13th inning, and his 2-run home run had just put the Rangers in the lead by a 3-1 margin.
The game ended at 2:12am Texas time (though it really ended a minute before; a review would take another minute to confirm it). Alex Claudio, who on Tuesday had his first MLB start (pressed into emergency service when Cole Hamels was injured just 15 minutes before first pitch), was now on the mound seeking his first save, (pressed into emergency service when the game went 13 innings).
With one on, and one out, Guillermo Heredia grounded to Odor, who leaned hard towards second base as he flipped the ball, collapsing onto his stomach as he watched Elvis make the relay throw to complete the 4-6-3 game-ending double play. The Rangers had won for the second time in two days, two cities, two games lasting longer than four hours.
In the five hours between that first run and the last out, the details ran together like gasoline rainbows dancing atop a puddle.
There was Yu Darvish, striking out fewer batters than usual, but making big pitches when the pressure was on. There was the Lucroy visit to the mound with two on and two outs in the sixth, and the subsequent sliders, looking like so many kites attached to yanked strings, swings and misses from Danny Valencia to–we assumed–end Darvish’s night.
But then after the Rangers offense could muster no more than a Shin-Soo Choo single in the top of the seventh, here was Darvish again. He would pitch seventh inning, in which he walked one, but also struck out one. Darvish ended his night with the game just over half-finished: 7 innings, 6 hits, 1 run, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts.
There were dueling defensive dives in the fourth inning: Gamel diving to his left, his wild hair mermaiding out as his hat became an innocent bystander of the robbery. Then in the bottom of the inning, it was Odor’s turn, after Robinson Cano’s solo home run had tied the game. Odor sprinted, then leapt to his right and away from home plate to steal back from Kyle Seager what Gamel had taken from Gomez.
The defense, so often a point of contention for Texas this year, was tonight dressed in its finest. In the fifth, Elvis Andrus dove behind the second base bag and popped up in time to throw from a knee to retire Carlos Ruiz.
There was the top of the eleventh, in which Joey Gallo thought he would be facing Jean Machi. Only Machi was shaking his hand after his final pitch to Gomez. He was unable to continue, so the Mariners called on Evan Marshall. Marshall threw two pitches, and after the second, he loosed a scream that could be heard from the press box and grabbed his right hamstring. Emilio Pagan finished the at-bat and no scout in the world could prepare Joey Gallo for that experience, so he struck all the way out.
Some say that Sam Dyson appeared. I saw only a specter with a goatee, who arrived, threw a few pitches and then led his comrades back into the dugout. But there was Tony Barnette.
Was there ever Tony Barnette.
He had faced three Astros in the previous game, and each of them singled. Tonight, he faced 11 Mariners, and allowed just two singles and a walk. He went three innings, a career high, and threw 37 pitches, holding Seattle scoreless from the 9th-11th innings.
“Broc (Doug Brocail, pitching coach) asked me how we were feeling, we talked it over. I said ‘I’m good to go’ and he turned around, didn’t say nothin’, just let me have it,” Barnette said after the game about going in for the third inning of work. With Jeremy Jeffress and Keone Kela unavailable due to their heavy workload yesterday, and Jose Leclerc apparently unavailable due to a hand bruise, the Rangers didn’t have the luxury of a full bullpen.
There was Matt Bush, and there was the kind of fire that warmed hearts, but did little to provide comfort to the remnant of faithful Mariner fans who were enduring a 12th inning that occurred in the late and in the cold (it was in the high 40s by this point).
And then there was Odor. And Claudio. And as the review confirmation came back from the MLB offices at 3:12am New York time, there was a team pouring out of the dugout to celebrate, a feeling that has been altogether too rare this season.
Tomorrow, there will be another game. Who knows what the bullpen situation will be after the last two days. Perhaps there will be a phantom injury, or perhaps Leclerc will be better, or perhaps Jon Daniels will trade for the Mariners’ Moose and he will be pressed into mop-up duty, though it’s not as though the Mariners have arms to spare after their 11th inning tonight.
We shall see. But for now, it’s a two-game win streak, both of which have been nail-biting adrenaline-harvesting marathons that can define a team, the kind of games the Rangers won more than their fair share of in 2016, and have largely dropped in 2017. For now, that is enough.
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