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Thoughts on a 5-4 Rangers win

Rangers 5, Tigers 4

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Texas Rangers Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Rangers 5, Tigers 4

  • What a weird, sloppy, frustrating, entertaining, annoying, ultimately fulfilling game this was today.
  • Bartolo Colon started for the Rangers and didn’t look quite like the Colon we’ve seen earlier this year. While Colon has been a master of efficiency for much of the season, keeping his pitch count down by throwing strikes and getting balls in play, the Tigers fouled off lots of pitches, worked counts and got Colon’s pitch count up early. Colon looked like he was in trouble in the third, when Pete Kozma led off the inning with a home run — yes, former Ranger great Pete Kozma homered — and then a JaCoby Jones single followed by a Jeimer Candelario double brought another run home. Colon got Mikie Mahtook, who tripled in the first, on a comebacker, however, then fanned the next two batters looking to escape.
  • A 1-2-3 fourth inning settled things down, but Colon got into trouble again in the fifth. Kozma reached on a throwing error by Renato Nunez, where he rushed the throw on a play he had plenty of time on, and then Jones singled and Candelario walked, loading the bases with no one out. A Mahtook sac fly brought a runner home, but then Colon escape when he induced a double play ground ball to Nunez that Nunez, fortunately, didn’t throw away.
  • With Colon’s pitch count at 98 after five innings, Jeff Banister went to Jesse Chavez for the sixth. Chavez also immediately got into trouble, giving up a double to Niko Goodrum to lead off the inning, and then a run scoring single to James McCann. Chavez retired the next two batters, but when Kozma struck again, singling to left field and then advancing to second on an ill-advised throw to third base, Banister pulled Chavez in favor of Jose Leclerc. Leclerc’s control appeared off, as he walked Jones to load the bases, but he fanned Candelario to end the inning, and then struck out the side swinging in the seventh for good measure.
  • The eighth was more Nunez-error-fueled drama, as new reliever Kevin Jepsen walked McCann, and then a routine grounder to Nunez at third base was thrown in the dirt, and Joey Gallo was unable to scoop it, resulting in two on and no one out. A sac bunt put runners at second and third for pinch hitter Victor Martinez, resulting in Banister summoning Jake Diekman from the pen. Once again, the mid-inning reliever switch worked, as Diekman struck out Jones and Martinez swinging to end the inning and escape the jam.
  • Keone Kela pitched a scoreless ninth in a tie game, but when Texas didn’t score, he was asked to pitch the tenth, as well. A leadoff Goodrum double put a runner in scoring position with no one out, but a pair of swinging Ks and a ground out (albeit with a two out wild pitch that looked, on replay, that it was a foul tip, and thus the runner should not have been allowed to advance, but whatever, it didn’t hurt anything) set the stage for the bottom of the tenth heroics.
  • As far as the offense goes, Texas got on the board first, in the bottom of the first. Delino DeShields walked, went to second on a wild pitch, and then advanced to third on a ground ball to shortstop (he was attempting to steal third, so there was no possible play by the shortstop on him). A Nomar Mazara walk was followed up by an Adrian Beltre single, putting two on with one out. A slumping Joey Gallo struck out swinging, however, and Jurickson Profar popped out to end the inning.
  • Texas struck again in the bottom of the third, with DeShields again walking, again making it to second, this time on a steal, and then scoring on an Isiah Kiner-Falefa triple to right field. IKF couldn’t score on a scorched Mazara ground out to third base, but Beltre brought him home on a sac fly to center, making it a 3-2 Ranger lead.
  • Texas had another great scoring opportunity in the fourth, as Tiger starter Francisco Liriano hit both Profar and Nunez to start the inning. Ryan Rua hit a rope to center field, and for some reason, Profar broke to third base without really checking on whether it was catchable. Rua’s line drive was, unfortunately, caught, and Profar was easily double off due to what was a rather inexplicably poor baserunning decision. Carlos Perez struck out swinging, and a promising inning went down in flames.
  • Similar story in the bottom of the fifth...the Rangers put the first two men on, with a DeShields walk and an IKF single. Detroit brought in reliever Blaine Hardy for Liriano, and Mazara bounced into an easy 4-6-3 double play to put a runner at third with two outs. Beltre was walked intentionally, and then Gallo was walked unintentionally, with Joey having a really good take on a close 3-2 breaking ball to load the bases. Profar, however, couldn’t cash in on the bases loaded, two out opportunity, popping out to right field once again.
  • After a scoreless sixth inning, the bottom of the seventh for the Rangers featured an ill omen for the Rangers. After DeShields walked, yet again, IKF laid down a routine sacrifice bunt. DeShields tried to advance all the way to third base, but was gunned down, meaning that, instead of a runner on second and one out, there was no one on and two outs. The Tigers brought lefty Daniel Stumpf in to face Mazara, a reasonable decision to get the platoon advantage for Detroit...but Mazara made the Tigers pay, crushing a home run to right center to tie the game.
  • Texas had an opportunity to end things in regulation in the bottom of the ninth, when pinch hitter Ronald Guzman singled, and then was bunted over to second base by Carlos Perez. Normally, you’d consider pinch running for Guzman in this situation, but the only position players on the bench were Shin-Soo Choo and Robinson Chirinos — who was scratched from the lineup — so pinch running for Guzman, or pinch hitting for the light-hitting Perez, wasn’t really an option. Guzman went to third on a DeShields ground out, but was stranded there on an IKF fly out.
  • But hey, if the Rangers had won in regulation, or had taken advantage of one of the myriad of opportunities they let slip away earlier in the game, we wouldn’t have had the Mazara heroics in the tenth. Leading off the inning, Mazara hit an absolute laser beam down the right field line...a ball that, based on Mazara’s reaction and its general trajectory, I was sure was going foul. A ball hit that hard, and that low (a 19 degree launch angle, per Statcast), seemingly always hooks foul.
  • Not this time, however...Mazara’s ball rocketed to the right field seats in seemingly record time, giving Mazara his second home run of the game, and the Rangers a walk off victory.
  • Nomar Mazara is now sporting a 902 OPS on the season. You’d still like him to hit the ball in the air more, and the defense is still less than ideal, but I will absolutely take a 902 OPS from a 23 year old lefthanded hitter any day.
  • With Rougned Odor appearing likely to be activated on Friday, this could have been Renato Nunez’s last day as a Ranger. He had an infield single that went about five feet — it chopped off the ground in front home plate, went way in the air, and then McCann struggled to locate it when it came down — along with the HBP, but his two bad throws are what stick one’s mind from this game. Nunez is out of options, so if the Rangers drop him to make room for Odor, he will have to clear waivers in order to be outrighted -- which is what the A’s were trying to do when the Rangers claimed him in the first place. He’s got big time power, and could be an asset to a team that needs a lefty masher, but his defensive limitations make it difficult for a team to keep him on the roster in this era of short benches and an emphasis on versatility.
  • Nunez has caught a lot of flak for his defense, but he’s playing out of position at third base. He was moved by Oakland to the outfield for the very reason that he’s not a capable major league defender at third base, and he’s been playing there for Texas mainly because the Rangers are dealing with injuries and have a roster that doesn’t really have a utility infielder right now. He’s done poorly at third base, but I think one can’t overlook that the Rangers have chosen to put him out there to play the position more often than he should be, in no small part because of the roster construction decisions that the organization has made.
  • Of course, it could be Ryan Rua getting sent down instead of Nunez. That would be the easy decision for the Rangers, since they can option Rua and would put off having to make a decision on whether to risk losing Nunez for a little while longer.
  • Texas takes the series from Detroit, and now has a day off tomorrow before a three game series against the Astros, and then will have another day off Monday. Texas has had a grueling stretch of early season games without much time off — they’ve played the most games of any major league team as of right now -- but the two off days close together will give them a chance to rest some relievers and possibly juggle the rotation.