Stop the press, the Texas Rangers took Game 1 of the ALDS by beating the Baltimore Orioles in a one run game, by the score of 3 to 2. The win marks the third straight playoff victory for the Rangers and ensures that they will head back to Arlington with at least a split in the series.
The fact that the game was a one run game should not have been in the favor of Texas, but it worked out well today. On the season the Rangers were a putrid 14-22 (.389 W-L%), while the Orioles were an astonishing 30-16 (.652 W-L%). Playoff games tend to be close and this one was no exception. There were several tense moments, but the Rangers answered the bell each and every time.
Josh Jung has an all-around great day for the Texas Rangers
If we were handing out game balls, there would have to be several handed out after today's contest. First off, Josh Jung would need to get one for what ended up being the game winning home run in the 6th inning. The blast put the Rangers up by two at the time, and proved to be the difference. But equally as impressive, was his stellar pick on the start of a crucial double play in the 8th inning. With runners at first and second and nobody out, Aroldis Chapman induced a ground ball that Jung had to go to his left and took the short hop before firing it to Marcus Semien.
Andrew Heaney and Dane Dunning pair up for solid 5 2/3 innings
And what about Andrew Heaney? The guy found out that he was going to start today's game last night, and he came out and threw a gem. Some might look at the lack of innings and pitch count and say that he didn't go very deep, but he did exactly what was expected of him. He pitched 3 2/3 innings, allowed one run, on two hits, one walk, and struck out one. His stuff was good, and he continuously hit his spots. Heaney only threw 56 pitches, so it gives Bruce Bochy a lot of flexibility on how he wants to utilize him the rest of the series.
Pairing up with Heaney, on getting a game ball is Dane Dunning. He more than likely thought that he was going to be starting this game and then at the last minute was told that he would be coming in out of the pen instead. Instead of pouting about not being the starter, Dunning came in and pitched well over 2 innings of work, allowed one run, on two hits, walked one, and struck out 1.
The one run came off the bat of Anthony Santander in the bottom of the 6th inning, cutting the O's deficit to one run. The home run was a blip on the day for Dunning as he missed his spot glove side over the heart of the plate, albeit down. But even with that home run allowed, Dunning deserves a game ball for handling the situation of not starting with class and pitching well when he did see action.
Texas Rangers bullpen shaky, but resilient
Josh Sborz, Aroldis Chapman, and Jose Leclerc will be sharing the next game ball. Sborz and Chapman struggled early in their outings, but they kept their wits about them, and got out of their innings by allowing no runs. Both pitchers walked the first batters that they faced on four pitches (not ideal for a relief pitcher in high leverage situations) and in fact, Sborz's first seven pitches that he threw were balls. Things could have taken a turn for the worst at just about any point in time for those two, but they have some serious velocity and they relied on it to get them out of the jams that they themselves created.
Jonah Heim guns down Gunnar Henderson
As for Leclerc, he was actually the only one of the trio that allowed a hit, and yet it felt like a much easier inning. After coming in to start the bottom of the ninth, Leclerc gave up a single to Gunnar Henderson. This is where our next game ball is to be handed out. Catcher Jonah Heim attempted a back pick of Henderson at first base, causing the rookie infielder to dive back into the bag. Then when Henderson attempted to steal second, he was unable to get a good jump (in part because of the pickoff attempt earlier) and Heim threw him out at second base, thus eliminating the potential tying run from being on base.
There were also several other potential candidates for game balls in this one, but if we hand out too many, they might not have enough baseballs for batting practice tomorrow. Speaking of tomorrow. The game is scheduled to begin at 3:07 CT and will feature LHP Jordan Montgomery vs RHP Grayson Rodriguez. The Rangers will look to grab a two-game lead in the best of five series before returning back to Arlington for Tuesday night's Game 3.