Heim saves Rangers on Opening Day after blown call almost turned him into a villain

Jonah Heim very nearly cost the Rangers on Opening Day. Instead, he became the day's hero.
Chicago Cubs v Texas Rangers
Chicago Cubs v Texas Rangers / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

It was never going to be easy on Opening Day for the Texas Rangers. The Cubs sent Justin Steele to the mound and he was being VERY stingy through the game's first four innings. However, an unfortunate opportunity presented itself when Steele hurt his hamstring in the fifth inning fielding a bunt and Chicago had to dip into their bullpen earlier than they planned.

The Rangers and Cubs would trade blows in the sixth and when the ninth inning started, it was a 2-2 game. The Cubs threatened after a pair of two-out walks from Jose LeClerc when a ball got by catcher Jonah Heim and Michael Busch scored all the way from second base on what was called a wild pitch by home plate umpire Chad Fairchild. However, Heim clearly thought the ball was a foul tip and replays seemed to agree with him. Still, Heim should have gotten to the ball sooner based on the situation. Texas was down a run late as a result.

Fortunately, Travis Jankowski, who hit exactly one home run all year in 2023, came up with a big pinch hit solo homer that sent the game to extras and gave Heim a chance to save the day and give the Rangers a walk off win on Opening Day.

Jonah Heim's heroics save the Rangers on Opening Day

To be clear, the wild pitch call wasn't completely egregious. Heim was certain that it was a foul tip because he had a front row seat. But it was a much harder call to make in real time for the home plate umpire given the stadium noise, is hard to see in slow motion, and the call wasn't reviewable even if there was clear evidence. Even if Heim was certain it was a foul ball, he definitely should have moved with more urgency once the ump made the call. Heim himself agreed after the game that regardless of his feelings about the call, he still needed to make that play.

In many ways, it set the stage for a great ending to the Rangers' first game of the season. The game got sent to the 10th inning and after the Cubs failed to cash in during the top half of the inning, the Rangers loaded the bases after a pair of walks. Wyatt Langford missed his chance for a storybook ending when he grounded into a force out at home for the second out of the inning, but Heim wouldn't miss his opportunity to flip the script and split the gap in right-center to walk the game off.

It would have been easy for this game to turn into a major downer for the Rangers and would have placed plenty of hate on Heim for not finishing the play in the ninth. However, this is a different Rangers team than those that would have folded in the past and Heim made the most of his chance to redeem himself.

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