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Thoughts on a 9-2 Rangers win

Rangers 9, Astros 2

Championship Series - Texas Rangers v Houston Astros - Game Six Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Rangers 9, Astros 2

  • After the Game 5 loss, there were fears expressed that the Rangers would be flat for this game, would come out and just get rolled over by a Houston team that had all the momentum.
  • Never fear…Nathan Eovaldi is here.
  • Yes, Nathan Eovaldi allowed a first inning run, at which point everyone started bitching and moaning and proclaiming the season over. Which made no sense because it was Big Game Nate on the mound. And he wasn’t going to let us down.
  • The Mitch Garver home run in the second to tie things up certainly helped lift the spirits and bring about the notion that maybe things would work out for the Arlington Nine. It served notice that there was life in this team, that they were not to be counted out.
  • Garver’s next time up, there were two outs in the fourth, no one was on, and it appeared it would be an uneventful half-inning for Texas. Garver got down 0-2, fouled off a pair of pitches, laid off three straight pitches out of the strike zone, then rolled a seeing eye grounder into left for a single. Jonah Heim followed that up with a pop fly to deep right field…that just kept carrying, and carrying, and carrying, until Kyle Tucker was at the fence. Tucker leapt, and it seemed certain he had snagged the ball…
  • Tucker did not snag the ball. Instead, Jonah Heim had a two run home run, giving the Rangers what would turn out to be all the runs they would need on the night.
  • After Game 5, it was lamented that in the ninth Marcus Semien and Corey Seager each had hard hit balls that would be expected to go for hits, but instead found gloves. In the fourth inning in this game, Garver’s single had an xBA of .210, and Heim’s homer an xBA of .120. Per Statcast, it would have been a homer in only two stadiums — Yankee Stadium and the Juice Box.
  • Baseball is weird, man.
  • Anyway. Eovaldi didn’t allow any hits from the second through the fifth before Yordan Alvarez and Jose Abreu had back to back singles to start the sixth. A Kyle Tucker fielder’s choice put runners on the corners with one out. Eovaldi got Mauricio Dubon to chase a high fastball for strike one, then foul off a similar pitch for strike two. With John Smoltz on the broadcast advocating for Eovaldi to throw the splitter down, Texas instead went upstairs again and Dubon made contact, flying out to right field, bringing home a run to make it 3-2.
  • There was criticism on the broadcast and on Twitter over going with another high fastball, with the argument being that that is something easier for Dubon to hit in the air for a sac fly. The flip side is that you’d gotten him to chase twice, and you’ve got the opportunity to go up the ladder again to try to get him to chase again for strike three. If Eovaldi goes to something down and Dubon gets a hit there would be complaints that he got away from what was working and should have tried to make Dubon chase again.
  • Fortunately, it didn’t matter.
  • The game crept out. It was terrifying. Every moment seems rife with disaster. Eovaldi was lifted with one out in the seventh, after giving up a single to Jose Altuve, and Josh Sborz came in and promptly threw two pitches nowhere near the strike zone, then got two strikes and a GIDP. So all good there.
  • Mitch Garver did good things again in the eighth. Evan Carter, who came into the game for defense in place of Robbie Grossman in the bottom of the fourth, reached on an infield single and then stole second base. After an Adolis Garcia K and a Carter stolen base, Garver doubled Carter home, providing an insurance run.
  • An insurance run that quickly became much appreciated, even though it ultimately wasn’t needed. Sborz walked Alex Bregman to start the eighth, then struck out Yordan Alvarez on three pitches. Yeah, I was astonished too. Abreu singled, prompting Bruce Bochy to go get Jose Leclerc for what appeared to be a five out save.
  • Nerve-wracking, it was. The Altuve home run just two days earlier haunted. The bullpen has been the Achilles heel all season. It seemed as if fate was setting things up to rip our hearts out once again.
  • The broadcast said that Leclerc was being brought in instead of Aroldis Chapman because Leclerc was more likely to throw strikes, which…yeah. Technically correct, but not something to fill you with confidence.
  • Leclerc went 3-0 on Tucker, threw a strike, and then issued ball four.
  • There was panic in the streets. Rangers fans were crying and hugging their loved ones. It was the Doom That Came To Minute Maid.
  • Thank goodness for Mauricio Dubon. He swung at the first two pitches he saw from Leclerc, then, on the third pitch, lifted a soft liner to shortstop. Two outs.
  • Jonathan Singleton was sent up to hit for Jeremy Pena. We can mock using Singleton in this situation all we want, but last time Singleton pinch hit against Leclerc, he walked, and Jose Altuve hit a go ahead homer right after, so ha ha ha, it really isn’t funny after all.
  • Leclerc got to 3-2 on Singleton. Singleton fouled the next two pitches off. Then Singleton swung through a cutter for strike three. The heavens sang. Trumpets blared. The Rangers had escaped.
  • And in doing so, set the stage for the Retribution of Adolis. Josh Jung walked. Leody Taveras reached on an Altuve error. Marcus Semien singled — his second hit of the game, to go along with two walks. Bases loaded for Corey Seager. Ryne Stanek replaced Rafael Montero, threw ball one nowhere close to the strike zone, and then threw a pitch that hit Corey Seager in the leg, making it 5-2.
  • Evan Carter struck out, bringing up Adolis. Adolis already had a Golden Sombrero. He was booed when his name was announced in the lineups before the game started. He was booed each time he came to the plate. Each time up, he appeared to be trying to silence every single one of those fans. Each time up, he had failed.
  • In his fifth plate appearance, Garcia chased a pitch up in the zone for strike one. He watched ball one. And the on the third pitch, he launched a ball into the Crawford Boxes. Grand slam. Crowd silenced. The Hollywood ending happened. 9-2 Rangers.
  • It was glorious. It was magical. It was what reminds you of why we put up with the heartbreak, the disappointments. It was an incredible moment in what has been an incredible season, and anyone who didn’t jump up celebrating when the ball reached the stands…well, I don’t know. I can’t fathom you not leaping up in celebration.
  • In a denoument, Travis Jankowski — who had pinch run for Garver earlier — hit a ball that looked like it was gone, but that Tucker actually went over the fence and caught this time. I thought it was pretty churlish of Tucker, given the game was pretty much over already and Jankowski likely wouldn’t have another chance for a playoff home run.
  • Andrew Heaney came in for a 1-2-3 9th, which was good, since it meant Leclerc didn’t have to throw more than the 16 pitches he needed to get out of the eighth. If Leclerc pitches in Game 7, it will be in back to back games, but you’d rather he be coming off a two out, 16 pitch out than a five out, 30 pitch out.
  • Things all went very well. Baseball is happy making again, at least for one night. And now the Rangers have a Game 7, with Max Scherzer as the starter, and a cast of thousands — or a cast of 11, anyway, every Ranger pitcher besides Eovaldi — available behind him.
  • Whatever happens, this was a hell of a win, and it filled me with joy.
  • Nathan Eovaldi’s fastball topped out at 97.3 mph. Josh Sborz reached 96.8 mph. Jose Leclerc’s fastball maxed out at 97.9 mph. Andrew Heaney hit 93.0 mph with his fastball.
  • Adolis Garcia’s home run was 110.1 mph. Corey Seager had a groundout at 107.5 mph. Nathaniel Lowe had a groundout at 102.8 mph. Mitch Garver had a 102.0 mph home run and a 100.1 mph double. Robbie Grossman had a 101.0 mph fly out.
  • And so it comes down to Game 7. I am sure I will be calm, relaxed and stress-free in the run up to Monday night’s game.