These are the sorts of little things that start to pile up when the team is slumping. You might be tempted to think "these little quirks also happen when your team is winning, but you just don’t notice them because your team is winning". To some small extent that is true, but they do not pile up and happen in clusters like they did tonight, because when they do, you find that your team is not, in fact, winning anymore.
The baseball gremlins chose the seventh inning tonight. Of course, by that point, some intriguing and exciting baseball had already happened. Andrew Cashner had been deftly maneuvering through the Astros lineup for 6 innings. Despite taking an early 1-0 deficit when an Altuve hit-by-pitch (Oh, there will be more on this later) turned into a stolen base, and then a run when Nomar Mazara, sprinting in and towards the center of the field, was able to reach (but not catch) a shallow fly ball by Carlos Correa (this, too, is foreshadowing).
But in the next half-inning, Mike Napoli singled and later scored when Elvis Andrus’ double bounced into the stands. But here came another wrinkle: Andrus was thrown out at home on a Nomar Mazara single to end both the rally and the inning.
In the fourth, with Cashner still working around leadoff walks and another hit-by-pitch (mm-hmm), Mike Napoli gave the Rangers the lead when his home run soared over the center field wall. It was 2-1.
In the sixth inning, things got a little prickly. McCullers threw behind Mike Napoli, ostensibly in retribution for the two earlier Astros that Cashner had plunked. Napoli took exception and began walking towards McCullers, who returned the favor. If you want to see the video, it’s here. If you want to read a running commentary of the best parts, start at this tweet and read the thread.
The end result of this particular scuffle was just Carlos Gomez and Collin McHugh barking at each other from across the field. McHugh wasn’t even in uniform.
With the most fun part of the game out of the way, we must now move on to the seventh, which is when the bike caught a stick in the spoke, flipped nine times, crashed into an oncoming shopping cart and burst into flames, which set a library on fire.
First off came the leadoff walk, Cashner’s third consecutive such free pass. Then came a Nori Aoki infield single. Andrus tried force out the lead runner at second, but the throw was offline, and Rougned Odor, who had already gone into his “first baseman” stretch, and was unable to adjust. Runners on second and third, no outs, and it was time for a pitching change.
Tony Barnette induced a bouncer that bounced just *thaaaaat* much too high. Barnette leapt, but couldn’t grab it. The landed halfway between the mound and second base and Barry-Sanders-stopped on a dime to wait for Rougned Odor. Whether Odor got to the ball in time to throw out the runner at home or not is debatable, but he juggled it ever-so-slightly coming out of the mitt, and elected to hold it. The game was tied.
After a Josh Reddick fielder’s choice, with runners on first and third now, Altuve hit a ball that appeared to hit third base and bounce over Joey Gallo’s head. It was an RBI double, and the Astros led 3-2.
That would have been enough, but no. Baseball Gremlins do not stop when there has been enough. They stop when they are good and satisfied. Carlos Correa’s double was legit, slicing through a hole in the drawn-in infield. Then–after a Beltran strikeout for the second out–Yulieski Gurriel hit a ball that Delino DeShields, in nearly a mirror image of Mazara’s adventure in the first inning, ran in and towards the center of the field to retrieve. He too got to the ball. He too was unable to catch it. Gurriel, hustling, used Rougned Odor’s own swim move against him to avoid the tag and slide in safely at second with a double. It was 6-2, and that would be the final.
It does not appear that the bad blood between the two teams was put to rest with some simple mosh pitting and barking. We shall see what tomorrow holds. But as entertaining as baseball fights are, the Rangers have another, more important fight on their hands: with the loss, they are already 6 games out of first place, and tied with Seattle for last place in the division. They are now officially fighting for their 2017 season.