Two Nights At The Ballpark
By Eric Reining
Apropos of this specific portion of the baseball season — where no one truly knows the impact trades will have (sometimes until two or three years down the road) — we won’t know the nature of what these consecutive walk-off wins will mean until the conclusion to the 2013 season. If it’s the highlight of the year, then that’s a bloody shame; if it’s what helps propel this club back into contention for the AL West crown, then that’s the hope. Well.
No, that’s the expectation.
Regardless, on two nights at the end of July, Ranger fans are not losing sleep, not questioning why the front office has yet to acquire a hitter, not wondering if the players care about winning or not.
You can probably recount multiple instances this season where you believed the Rangers (58-49) had hit rock bottom. That there couldn’t possibly be a way for them to play any worse over a prolonged stretch than they were at that exact moment. And I know you have, because I know I have.
But through the passion and emotion always lies some sensibility within the baseball fan, and there’s simply too much evidence indicating that Texas has been drastically underperforming of late, that the talent is still present from a club that held an injury-aided 53-37 (.589) record as recently as July 9th.
Last night it was Geovany Soto providing us an impressionable 2013 memory, and tonight, it was the remarkable Leonys Martin.
For the 2nd night in a row, the Rangers had to fight their way back into winning position in the last inning; trailing 11-7 in the bottom of the 8th, Soto cracked a center-cut fastball that he didn’t appear to get “all” of, depositing it for a 3-run homer in the same vicinity he did on Monday night. That made the game 11-10.
With two outs in the 9th inning — as Texas’ odds of victory had fallen to a mere 5.4% (per the above WPA) — Ian Kinsler got on base with a walk.
He then stole 2nd.
On the next pitch, an 0-2 pitch, Adrian Beltre tilted the scales back in the Rangers’ favor with — forgive me, I’m going to say it — a CLUTCH base-hit under 3B Tommy Field’s glove (which is ironic, and awesome), plating Ian Kinsler as the tying run. 11-11.
In related news, the only reason Field was in the game at 3rd was because Alberto Callaspo, the Angels’ starting 3rd baseman, was traded mid-game to the Athletics for 25 year-old prospect (if you’d still like to consider him one) Grant Green. The trade itself seems, to me at least, a minor victory for the Athletics — as Green isn’t much of an OBP guy, nor does he hit for nearly enough power to compensate for his strikeout rate — but on this night that could easily have proven to be the difference in the Rangers getting a win where it mattered, on the field.
In the bottom of the 10th, after Mitch Moreland and Geovany Soto reached via walk, David Murphy nearly killed the rally by swatting what looked to be a double-play ball to 3rd, which Murph inevitably beat out to put runners on the corners with one out.
Then, in a very Joe Maddon-esque way, with Leonys Martin coming to the plate the Angels forfeited an outfielder to give themselves a 5-man infield blockade, ostensibly trolling Martín to beat them by hitting the ball where they couldn’t touch it.
Which is just what he did, tucking a 3-run rocket slightly above the rim of the left field wall, vaulting the Rangers to their 2nd win in as many nights, and shaving a game off the A’s lead in the American League West.
As it’s now the morning of July 31st, I’m persistent in my stance that the Rangers should not pursue an outfield bat on the trade wire, though I didn’t need these last two nights of walk-off baseball as confirmation.
This is what the team is capable of.