In an afternoon affair that looked very much like it was going to turn into one of Those Games on a lazy summer Sunday in Chicago, the Rangers and White Sox instead opted for Strange Baseball instead until the very end when things reverted back to normalcy for Texas.
The Rangers came into the game with four wins and five losses on their current road trip, but with a win they could finish off their ten day trip even, with two series wins, and with a .500 overall record. Considering the Rangers had blown a late lead to lose in at least one of the game in each of the three series, that seemed to be a remarkable feat.
They were oh so close to pulling it off, too.
The Rangers turned to Tyson Ross hoping to finish off the trip on a bright note, however, like Austin Bibens-Dirkx and Cole Hamels before him, the White Sox homered in the first frame to get on the board first. This time it was Melky Cabrera going deep to put the Ross and the Rangers in an early 1-0 hole.
Opposite Ross, the Rangers were squaring off against White Sox ace left-hander Jose Quintana. To challenge Quintana, the Rangers opted for a right-handed heavy lineup with Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, and Rougned Odor sitting in favor of Pete Kozma at 2B, Delino DeShields in left field, and Jonathan Lucroy as the DH.
It should be noted at this point that Robinson Chirinos was in the lineup as the Rangers catcher for the second consecutive game. This was the first time that Chirinos started behind the dish on back-to-back days for Texas. Perhaps it was no coincidence then that after the lineups were announced, Lucroy's name came up as on the trading block. (It should also be noted that our Matt Fisher was already on top of this before anyone came out and said anything!)
It was Kozma's chaotic presence that ignited the Strange Baseball flame in the third as he reached via a dropped ball error with one out in the inning. Kozma made it to second base safely after replay review overturned an out call on a force play. Kozma made it to third base on an infield single by Shin-Soo Choo and scored on a double play that wasn't off the bat of Elvis Andrus as once again the Rangers benefited from an overturned out call.
Suddenly Quintana needed another out in a 1-1 game with the Rangers scoring via two errors, an infield single, and a botched double play. After walking Adrian Beltre to load the bases, Quintana got Carlos Gomez to line out to center field. Failing to get the big hit with the bases loaded was definitely the story of this series for the Rangers and it would ultimately come back to bite them.
My pet theory is Tyson Ross doesn't do too well when he's forced to sit around letting his arm cool down which he had to do as he watched the Rangers tie the game but take nearly 30 minutes to do so. In the bottom of the third, Ross walked the first two hitters sandwiched between a throwing error on a stolen base attempt by Chirinos.
Jose Abreu doubled in a run, Todd Frazier singled in run, and a Matt Davison sac fly made it 4-1 White Sox with members of the Rangers' bullpen up and warming. Yolmer Sanchez walked to load the bases and it suddenly looked like the White Sox were going to blow the game open and carve their way into the underbelly of the Texas bullpen after dispatching of Ross.
The Rangers survived this fate when Adrian Beltre made a Hall of Fame Adrian Beltre play by doubling off the swift Tim Anderson on a nifty force and 5-3 put out.
The Rangers rallied behind the play of their captain by putting up two runs in the next inning via a Mike Napoli home run and the first stolen base of Robinson Chirinos' career. The Strange Baseball flames were fanned as Chirinos reached via his first non-extra base hit in over a month, stole second base, and scored on two errant throws.
Ross bounced back for two scoreless innings to finish with a line of 5 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 5 BB, 3 Ks and just 54 strikes in his 97 pitches. However, he also left with a lead as in the top of the fifth, the Rangers loaded the bases against Quintana with nobody out.
Quintana got Gomez to strike out before his day was finished. Chicago reliever Anthony Swarzak came in and promptly got Mike Napoli to K swinging. And just when it looked like the Rangers were going to blow yet another bases loaded/no out situation, Jonathan Lucroy hit a parachute bloop into shallow right field to score two runs and give Texas their first lead 5-4.
The duo of Ernesto Frieri and Matt Bush (making his first appearance as the non-closer since May) pitched two scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh before giving way to Jose Leclerc as the setup man. Leclerc, of course, could be considered the best Rangers reliever thus far this season. He also hadn't blown a save for Texas all season, a rarity among the crew in this year's 'pen.
Today was the day, unfortunately. Moments after nearly getting Yolmer Sanchez to foul out on a ball that fell just beyond Mike Napoli's reach at the Rangers' dugout, Sanchez took Leclerc deep with a runner on to give the White Sox a 6-5 lead they would not relinquish.
It seems, no matter what the Rangers do, the bullpen is just going to bite them this year.
Needing a run off White Sox closer David Robertson now working on a five-out save, the Rangers indeed had one final rally in them as Rougned Odor came off the bench to pinch hit and hit a squirter down the third base line to beat the shift and give Texas a leadoff single.
After a ground ball force out put Nomar Mazara on first, the Rangers used Joey Gallo to pinch run. Choo hit a liner to third that was caught for the second out. Elvis Andrus doubled down the left field line but it didn't make it far enough for the Gallo to try to score all the way from first.
With the tying and go ahead runs in scoring position, the White Sox intentionally walked Adrian Beltre to face Carlos Gomez with the bases loaded one again. Gomez struck out on a ball that got away from the catcher but not far enough for Gallo to score from third base as Kevan Smith touched home to end the ballgame.
It was another heartbreaker for Texas in a season filled with them. In a game that featured five errors, several weird reviews, two struggling starters, and good and bad lucky bounces, it all once again came down to the Rangers bullpen and that's just not a place the Rangers want to be these days.
With the loss, the Rangers finished their road trip with a 4-6 record and return home two games under .500 with a 40-42 record. Texas held a lead into the ninth in two of those six losses, held a seven-run lead in another of those losses, and in today's game, were one out away from going into the ninth with a lead.
It was a very strange game today but with an all too familiar ending.
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