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Thoughts on a 3-2 Rangers win

Rangers 3, Orioles 2

Division Series - Texas Rangers v Baltimore Orioles - Game One Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Rangers 3, Orioles 2

  • Playoff can be a little bit nerve-wracking.
  • Especially when you’re on the road, facing your opponent’s best pitcher, and you’re going with Andrew Heaney as your starter.
  • This was, for all intents and purposes, a bullpen game. Heaney had pitched out of the pen for most of September, and it seemed likely Bruce Bochy was going to have a quick hook, with Heaney not likely to go through the lineup more than twice before giving way to Dane Dunning.
  • Dunning, of course, was the expected Game One starter, up to the point where the Rangers did a head fake the night before and said Heaney was the guy. A lefty pitcher designed to take advantage of a deep left field fence and potentially neutralize Baltimore’s lefty bats, at least for the first few innings.
  • Things, remarkably enough, went to plan, more or less. Heaney allowed just a single baserunner through three. Given a 2-0 lead heading into the fourth, a one out walk followed by an RBI double signaled the second part of the tag team should get ready, and after likely Rookie of the Year Gunnar Henderson (who has struggled against lefties) popped out, it was Dane Dunning time.
  • Dunning ended up facing just eight batters, logging two innings, less than would have been expected. The next-to-last batter he faced was Anthony Santander, who took Dunning very deep to right for a solo home run. Fortunately for Texas Josh Jung had provided an insurance run with a bomb of his own, but with the lead cut to one, Bochy wasn’t going to allow Gunnar Henderson to face a righthander as the tying run.
  • Setting the stage for the redemption of Will Smith. The deposed closer, rocked repeatedly late in the season, was summoned from the pen. Smith had, even during his late season collapse, still been excellent against lefties. And if he could retire Henderson for the third out of the inning, Bochy could go to a righthander to start the seventh without Smith having to abide by the three batter rule and have to face Aaron Hicks, who mashes lefties.
  • Smith did his job, getting up 0-2, failing to get Henderson to chase on a pair of pitches out of the zone, then got Henderson to fan on a slider. Well, all five pitches were sliders. But still.
  • Josh Sborz, Aroldis Chapman and Jose Leclerc handled the seventh-eighth-ninth, but because it is the Rangers and specifically the Rangers bullpen, it was handled in a way that made us scared and anxious and needing our mommies.
  • Sborz threw seven balls in a row to start his outing. That’s bad. It appeared the only question was whether the Orioles would tie the game or take the lead before someone could be warm and brought in to replace him.
  • But two. Two strikes to Adam Frazier, then a fly out. A Cedric Mullins K. And then pinch hitter Ryan O’Hearn, on the bench because he’s a lefty hitter who sits against lefty starters, was summoned. He was threatening. He could give the Orioles the lead with one swing. And Josh Sborz is very capable of giving up the lead with no swing.
  • And yet…disaster did not strike. Sborz fanned O’Hearn. Seven innings done, and Texas was still ahead.
  • Aroldis Chapman came in from the eighth. He did Sborz one better. After walking leadoff hitter Austin Hays on four pitches, he then walked Adley Rutschman, mixing in a wild pitch for good measure, putting two on with no one out. Disaster incoming, courtesy of Anthony Santander, who had homered earlier in the game.
  • Anthony Santander took the first pitch for a strike, then smoked the second pitch to the left side of the infield. Josh Jung made a sweet pick on a short hop, started a double play, Chapman struck out Ryan Mountcastle to end the inning, and we are all happy again.
  • Those adventures made the bottom of the ninth seem easy. Henderson singled to start the inning. Leclerc fell behind Aaron Hicks. On a 2-1 pitch, Henderson broke for second. Jonah Heim made a perfect throw. Henderson was out. The tying run was no longer on base.
  • Then Hicks struck out, Adam Frazier grounded out, and we all could celebrate.
  • As for the offense, it was another game where it felt like Texas should have scored more, but they ended up doing just enough. Two runs in the fourth — an Adolis Garcia one out double, an Evan Carter double, and a Jonah Heim single give Texas a two run lead. A Nathaniel Lowe single and a Leody Taveras single loaded the bases with two outs, and it seemed a big eruption was nigh, but a Marcus Semien strikeout meant no huge inning,
  • The other run, as noted above, was Josh Jung’s sixth inning homer. It was an insurance run that ended up being crucial.
  • A 1-0 series lead for Texas. A stressful, anxiety-ridden one run win. I’m still not recovered.
  • Andrew Heaney topped out at 94.3 mph on his fastball, averaging 92.5 mph. Dane Dunning hit 93.1 mph with his sinker, averaging 91.0 mph. Will Smith threw nothing but sliders, maxing out at 81.5 mph. Josh Sborz reached 98.8 mph with his fastball. Aroldis Chapman’s sinker got to 101.4 mph. Jose Leclerc’s fastball topped out at 97.8 mph.
  • Adolis Garcia’s double had an exit velocity of 110.0 mph, and was the hardest hit ball of the game. Josh Jung’s home run had an exit velocity of 107.5 mph. Jonah Heim’s grounder off of Danny Coulombe in the fifth had an exit velocity of 106.6 mph. Corey Seager had a first inning line out at 106.6 mph. Leody Taveras had a lineout at 106.1 mph. Evan Carter had a 101.5 mph double. Marcus Semien had a 100.6 mph fly out.
  • Let’s see if they can keep it going behind Jordan Montgomery on Sunday.