A Most Improbable Walk-Off Win
By Dic Humphrey
Wednesday night in Arlington the Rangers won a most improbable game 11-10 in 10 innings. It may not be too dramatic to say that the season was on the line, and the Rangers somehow figured out how to win. The Rangers opened this series with a five game lead over the Angels, but looked shoddy losing Monday and Tuesday nights. Texas had lost four of five to the Angels including two losses in a three game series two weekends ago. A loss Wednesday would assure the Angels of a series win and a net pick up of at least two games in the standings this week.
It couldn’t have started much worse. The Angels struck for six second inning runs to seemingly take charge of the game. When the Rangers cracked the scoreboard with a run in the bottom half, the Angels answered right back with one in the top of the third to maintain the six run lead. Texas came up with four in the fifth inning to make it a game at 7-5, but the rally looked out of gas as the Angels shut down the Rangers in the sixth and seventh.
Texas scratched out a run in the eighth to cut the deficit to one. Ian Kinsler homered in the ninth to tie it. Texas had come all the way back from two six run deficits. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
The joy didn’t last long. Closer Joe Nathan came on to pitch the 10th inning and the Angels promptly re-claimed the lead. He served up a home run ball to light hitting Chris Iannetta (.203). That was bad enough, but it got worse. After retiring the next two batters, Nathan hit Torii Hunter, bringing up Albert Pujols. Pujols had already homered Wednesday night, after sending two into the seats on Tuesday. The pop gun hitting Peter Bourjos was batting behind Pujols after a defensive substitution with a big lead. There was no reason to throw a pitch in the same zip code as home plate, but Nathan somehow did. Pujols poled his second home run of the night to extend the Angels’ lead to 10-7 and seemingly ice the game.
Instead, Pujols’ round tripper just set the stage for the finish of one of the all time top five games ever played at The Ballpark in Arlington, Ameriquest Field and Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Nelson Cruz led off the Rangers’ 10th with his 16th home run of the year. With the score 10-8, there was a sickening feeling about the two run shot carelessly given up to Pujols in the top half.
The much maligned Michael Young followed by reaching on an error. It may not look pretty in the statistics, but a runner on base brought the tying run to the plate, no matter how he reached first base. David Murphy then walked. The tying runs were suddenly on base with no one out. Mike Napoli then singled. Third base coach Dave Anderson took no chances with a two run deficit. He held Young at third.
Mitch Moreland followed with another single. Young scored to make the game score 10-9. Again Anderson was conservative in the third base coaching box holding Murphy at third. Kinsler followed with a pop up to second on the first pitch, and suddenly the Angels were a double play ball away from finalizing the win.
That left the game in Elvis Andrus’ hands, and he delivered. He singled to left driving in runs 10 and 11. The Rangers had come back from two six run deficits to send the game into extra innings and a three run deficit in the 10th to win 11-10!
Nathan pitched as poorly as he has in any outing this year, yet he gets credited with the win. It’s his second to go along with three losses. Alexi Ogando, Robbie Ross and Tanner Scheppers were the real pitching heroes in this one. After Yu Darvish gave up seven runs (all earned) in five innings, those three kept the Angels off the scoreboard for the last four innings to make the 10th inning heroics possible. It was clearly the most exciting game of the year in Arlington, and after the Rangers had lost the first two games of this series, a win Wednesday night was –almost imperative. This Ranger team was not denied.
Manager Ron Washington told the media after the game, “I thought it was a test of our character as a team and as an organization. I thought it was an outstanding game. The offense kept grinding and grinding.”
Yesterday, Ryan Dempster was on a team that had won 37 games this season and was 17.5 games out of first place. Every team in the American League has won more than 40 games and only two have won less than 50. After Wednesday’s game, the 15-year veteran looked like a little kid. He was out on the field piling on Elvis Andrus for stroking the game winning hit for a first place team (his first place team) to celebrate a walk-off win. He’s not in Chicago any longer. Hopefully for Ranger fans, he’ll pitch well enough on Thursday night even this series at two games apiece and send the Rangers to Kansas City this weekend with a five game lead, the same lead they held when this series against the Angels started Monday night.
- After the game Rangers’ GM Jon Daniels announced that Mike Olt has been recalled from AA Frisco. Olt was drafted out of the University of Connecticut in the 2010 first year player draft, the 49th player selected in that draft, and has hit 28 home runs this year for the Rough Riders. He was one of the most sought after Ranger prospects in the frenzy leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline (July31). Brandon Snyder was optioned to make room on the roster for Olt.