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Thoughts on an 8-5 Rangers win

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Rangers 8, Orioles 5

Texas Rangers v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Rangers 8, Orioles 5

  • Well, that was pretty cool.
  • Stop me if you’ve heard me say this before, but even meaningless, late season games between two awful teams can be worth watching.
  • Spencer Howard took to the mound for the Rangers as their starter and pitched pretty much like he has pitched since coming to Texas in the Gibson/Kennedy/Crouse trade — which is to say, not particularly well. He struck out four batters while not walking anyone, but was way too hittable, allowing four runs on six hits, including one home run.
  • “One” home run. Let’s put a pin in that.
  • Things could have been — should have been — much worse for Mr. Howard on Friday night. Staked to a 2-0 lead before he ever took the mound, Howard was fine in the first inning, but got slapped around in the second by arguably the worst team in baseball. A very hard hit single, a K, and then a softly hit bloop single put runners on the corners with one out in the second. Richie Martin hit a weak roller to second base, and while Nick Solak and Isiah Kiner-Falefa did their parts as quickly and effectively as was possible, the combination of the slowness of the ground and the speed of Martin — he’s in the 97% percentile in sprint speed, per Statcast — meant that no double play was turned, and the Orioles got a run home, making it 2-1.
  • Things got worse from there, as Howard gave up another hard hit single, this time to Kelvin Gutierrez, before allowing Cedric Mullins to launch a blast to center field that Leody Taveras leapt for at the wall, but couldn’t quite reach, meaning the dreaded two out, three run home run turned a 2-1 lead into a 4-2 deficit for the Rangers.
  • This was Mullins’ 30th home run of the season, incidentally, and as he came into the game with 30 stolen bases, that bomb officially made him a 30/30 player — the first in Orioles history. When the inning ended and the Orioles were to come back on the field, his teammates had Mullins go out on the field alone, so that the fans could give him a standing ovation — no doubt not only for his accomplishment in getting to 30/30, but for being one of the few really good, bright spots in a dismal year for Baltimore.
  • Mullins has been terrific this year, and while he’s probably not going to perform as well offensively going forward as he has in 2021, he’s a solid offensive and defensive center fielder who has four years of team control remaining. Given that Baltimore is still a couple of years away from opening their window, if the Rangers wanted to try to jump start their transition from rebuilding to competing, sending a fat, phat package of prospects to the O’s for Mullins and John Means would go a long way towards that goal.
  • Returning to Howard...we said to put a pin in one home run allowed. It really should have been three home runs allowed. With one on and one out in the third, Pedro Severino hit a ball to center field that looked very similar to Mullins’ home run. Leody once again went to the wall, once again leapt...but this time came down with the ball in his glove, taking what seemed like a sure home run away from Severino, and saving two runs.
  • Then in the fourth, Pat Valaika lofted a high fly to left field...it wasn’t crushed like the Mullins and Severino flies, and didn’t go nearly as far, but it had enough to sneak over the fence in left field. Except that DJ Peters positioned himself at the wall, leapt, and brought the ball back, resulting in the Rangers’ outfield defense saving Howard from giving up a home run for the second inning in a row.
  • Those two plays ended up being quite significant.
  • Howard was done after four innings, Chris Woodward no doubt feeling there was a limit to how many times you can ask your outfielders to bring balls back, and Drew Anderson took over, throwing three shutout innings. Josh Sborz allowed a run in the eighth, giving back a run the Rangers had scored in the fourth, and so Texas headed to the top of the ninth with a 5-3 deficit.
  • Before talking about the top of the ninth, we should acknowledge the work the offense did to have kept Texas in the game up to that point. As noted above, Texas got on the board in the first, with Adolis Garcia’s two out single being followed up by Nathaniel Lowe’s two run home run, making it a 2-0 game. After falling down 4-2, Texas made it a one run game in the fourth inning, with Lowe’s leadoff single and Nick Solak’s walk setting up DJ Peters for a one out RBI single, though Jonah Heim’s GIDP then snuffed out the rally before Texas could tie it up or take the lead.
  • Texas was kept off the board from the fifth through the eighth, despite opportunities during that stretch, including Adolis Garcia and Nick Solak singling in the sixth off of former Ranger great Dillon Tate, giving Texas two on with one out, and Nick Solak doubling with two out in the eighth. They couldn’t push runs across, however, meaning Texas was down two in the ninth.
  • DJ Peters — who had a hell of a game — tripled to lead off the inning. Willie Calhoun, pinch hitting for Jonah Heim, had hit a high, but not deep, fly ball to center that brought home Peters, cutting the deficit to one, but with no one out.
  • Leody Taveras dropped down a bunt single to put the tying run on first. Isiah Kiner-Falefa topped a ball that hopped meekly towards third base...but was in a no man’s land, too shallow for a play to be made by the third baseman, too close to the line for the pitcher to have a play, too far from home for the catcher to have a play. There were two on now with one out.
  • After an Andy Ibanez walk loaded the bases, Adolis Garcia came to the plate. Adolis has been struggling in September, but already had two singles on the day when he came to the plate. On a 2-2 pitch, Garcia roped a line drive down the left field line for a double, bringing home a pair of runs for a 6-5 lead, putting the Rangers ahead for the first time since the bottom of the second.
  • An intentional walk to Lowe loaded the bases, and a Nick Solak grounder to short brought home a run while erasing Lowe at second. Texas then executed a double steal, Garcia stealing home to give Texas an 8-5 lead.
  • And just like that, the Rangers had a three run cushion. Joe Barlow got the save, and the Rangers went home happy.
  • Embrace the joy of an exciting Rangers come from behind win, everyone!
  • Adolis Garcia’s ninth inning double was the hardest hit ball of the game, with a 111.3 mph exit velocity, and he also had a 102.5 mph single. Nathaniel Lowe’s home run was 103.1 mph off the bat. Leody Tavears had a 101.4 mph lineout, and Andy Ibanez had a 100.9 mph groundout.
  • Spencer Howard topped out at 95.9 mph on his fastball, averaging 93.5 mph. Drew Anderson topped out at 95.4 mph on his fastball. Josh Sborz maxed out at 99.3 mph with his four seamer, and Joe Barlow hit 95.4 mph with his four seamer.
  • There’s just eight games left in the season for the Rangers. Let’s enjoy them.