Let’s fast-forward to the moments that matter:
With one out in the top of the 11th, in a 2-2 game, Elvis Andrus was hit by an Alex Torres pitch. After rookie right-hander Chris Archer was removed from the game to begin the 7th, it was only the Rangers’ 2nd baserunner (the other also being Andrus, who singled off Jake McGee with two outs in the 8th).
So with Elvis on 1st base, and two outs — after Alex Rios popped out in foul territory — Adrian Beltre blooped a little base hit to right-center. Naturally with 2 outs, Andrus was running on contact. By the time Wil Myers fielded the ball Andrus was making his way to 3rd base, and whether Myers had a brief lapse in judgement or just didn’t expect Elvis to head home, he lazily tossed the ball to the cutoff man with no sense of urgency, and Elvis Andrus came home to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead.
After Jason Frasor, Tanner Scheppers, Neal Cotts and Joakim Soria each successfully (and respectively) threw a scoreless inning of relief — collectively allowing 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 3 — Joe Nathan came on to close out the game.
Only he didn’t.
After retiring Evan Longoria and Wil Myers relatively easily, Nathan walked Matt Joyce, who was then lifted for speedy base-running specialist, ex-Ranger Freddy Guzman. As it turned out — as one would expect — Guzman stole 2nd base, and the next hitter, David DeJesus, singled him in to tie the game at 3-apiece.
June 23, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington (38) looks on as his team plays the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
We cannot lay blame on Joe Nathan — who’s been excellent in relief this year — and at this stage of the game Ron Washington had not yet committed any egregious errors. But as we know, late-game situations are Wash’s achilles heel, and pinning Washington against a pure tactician of Joe Maddon’s ilk is analogous to a cockroach competing with a butterfly in a beauty pageant. Who ya got?
In the top of the 12th — with lefty Alex Torres still on the mound — Jeff Baker began the inning with a double to left, followed by Craig Gentry taking a 5-pitch walk. With runners on 1st and 2nd and nobody out, the Rangers win expectancy was at 70%. Then, as Ron Washington is wont to do, he called for the next hitter, Jurickson Profar, to lay down a sacrifice bunt, even though that phase of the game is neither a strength of Profar nor is it a smart baseball decision. But, hell, let’s do it anyway.
Essentially, even in the best-case scenario, Jurickson would have advanced the runners to 2nd and 3rd to bring up Leonys Martin, who is a .244/.302/.311 hitter against lefties in 2013. Not exactly a guy you would depend on the deliver the go-ahead run.
Nonetheless, Profar got the bunt down; straight to Rays’ 3rd baseman, Evan Longoria, who flipped a throw to 2nd for an out, keeping the double-play in order. So now it’s 1st and 3rd and one out. With Leonys at the plate, Jurickson took 2nd base on fielder’s indifference, but then Martín hit a weak line-drive to Yunel Escobar for the 2nd out. So that’s the situation: there are runners at 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs, and Joe Maddon summoned the righty, Brandon Gomes, to retire Ian Kinsler.
Which he did. On three pitches. To bring us to the bottom of the 12th, the final half-inning of the game.
With Frasor, Scheppers, Cotts, Soria, and Nathan already utilized — the Rangers 5-best high-leverage bullpen arms — and in arguably the most important inning of Texas’s season, Ron Washington chose to go with Joseph Ortiz to take the game to the 13th. Not Robbie Ross, not Neftali Feliz, not even Ross Wolf or Travis Blackley. He went with the 23 year-old rookie with a 4.09 ERA in 2013.
As one could expect, Ortiz allowed a leadoff single on an 0-2 pitch to Jose Lobaton, who was then advanced to 2nd on a Yunel Escobar sacrifice bunt. (We can argue whether this was a smart move or not.)
By this point, Ron Washington had Neftali Feliz warming up in the Ranger bullpen, and that’s where everything gets dicey. I mean, if you are willing to bring in Feliz once the inning already started, then why wouldn’t you just start the inning with him? After all, this is a guy who was the Rangers closer in their 2010 and 2011 World Series runs. Even coming off Tommy John surgery, high-leverage pitching is nothing new to him.
vs. LHP: .289/.369/.465
vs. RHP: .220/.301/.362
He can’t hit right-handed pitching, but he is a beast against lefties. Joe Ortiz is a lefty. Neftali Feliz is a righty. And Ortiz is the man who faced him. And I just don’t understand that.
Desmond Jennings laced a single to right field, and the Rays defeated the Rangers 4-3 on Wednesday night.
Sure, maybe if Wash chose to bring on Feliz, Joe Maddon would have sent up a pinch-hitter. Maybe Feliz gives up the game-winning hit. Who knows. But baseball is a game of percentages, playing the percentages, leveraging the game in your favor any way you know how. In the top of the inning in a situation totally conducive to scoring runs, Washington had a non-bunter lay down a bunt. It failed. In the bottom of the inning, in a totally manageable situation with a man on 2nd and one out and a platoon righty at the dish, he played into the opponent’s strength.
He gave the game to the Rays.
And it’s not the first time it’s happened. It won’t be the last time it happens. It happens. It’s Ron Washington.
This is as heartbreaking of a defeat as I’ve felt this year. Maybe the worst since Game 6 of the World Series in 2011. I just don’t understand why this man is still employed by such an elite franchise, and this is coming from a person who doesn’t wish harm on other people’s lives or well-beings.
But there is no defense for tonight. There isn’t.