The park was quiet. Barring some extra-innings curse from baseball as it lingers in the threshold at the end of 2017's dinner party, there were a mere seventeen innings left in a season had been a long slog through a summer full of oppressive heat, hurricanes, bullpen inconsistency, and general inefficacy of one sort or another.
Now, in the top of the second inning, with Andrew Cashner making his final start of the season, the Rangers had committed an error, then another error, and then Cashner had walked Bruce Maxwell to load the bases. With the Rangers only a game removed from the seven-game losing streak that had steered their Wild-Card hopes aground, It appeared that this would be just another punch in the mouth from Baseball as the 2017 season slipped into the hereafter.
But then, a ground ball. Rougned Odor to Elvis Andrus to Joey Gallo. Cashner had escaped the inning without allowing a run, and while the game had not yet turned on its heels from dismal to fun, it had at least stopped dead in its tracks and perked an ear toward the night sky, listening over the reserved hum of the taciturn crowd for that old wild howl to quicken its spirits.
The next pitch thrown was by A’s starter Daniel Gossett, and it was swatted back from whence it came for a Nomar Mazara single. Three pitches later, that visceral ecstatic yawp came from some ethereal dimension, convoking the joy of seasons un-lost and futures unfated. It sounded like a banshee’s shriek and a hunter’s pistol, and it fired high into the night air, a little white pill flung like some archer’s arrow to pierce the canopy and let the joy spring forth.
It was Joey Gallo’s 40th home run of the year, and as it landed high on Greene’s Hill, Gallo was the first to drink of its newly-sprung bounty of delight. The large man-horse smiled broadly as he rounded first base, and he did not stop smiling as he high-fived third base coach Tony Beasley, nor when he reached the dugout, nor, even, when a cup of water was flung into his face in celebration.
The Rangers scored four runs in that second inning, and another one in the third, when Gallo again spun his hips and torqued his torso and gave flight to another leather rocket, this one landing high in the right field upper deck.
There is no man–not even one endearingly referred to as a man-horse–that can stave off the coming end of the season, nor is there one that can turn back time and make it so that the Rangers make the playoffs instead of mired in the final lame-duck week of a season rife with disappointment. But Joey Gallo did something remarkable in its own right: for a night, he reminded us that baseball, for all its inherent failings and long summer grind, is a joyous game.
Those in attendance were reminded, not only of the halcyon years so recently passed, and not only of the bright hope in the future of a team with so many young and on-the-rise players, but of the simple joy that can be found even in a meaningless late September game, watching a large man administrate his brute force and launch a baseball into orbit.
The final score was an 8-4 Texas win; the Rangers and A's will conclude the 2017 season tomorrow when Cole Hamels and Daniel Mengden square off at 2:05pm.