Shawn Tolleson puts the first two runners on in the ninth, then goes to work preventing the Astros from scoring, striking out batting champion Jose Altuve to end the game and preserve the win.
What a difference a week makes.
A week ago, the Rangers hit their lowest point in the season with a 22-5 loss to the New York Yankees that featured the worst the Rangers had to offer in pitching, offense and defense.
If this team was going to fold its hand for the season, that would have been the catalyst. Especially considering the last time the Rangers got to .500, they lost to the Angels at home 13-0, and fell into a nasty tailspin.
But this time they didn’t fold. Because four monumental things happened.
One, the front office went out and got Cole Hamels, as well as Jake Diekman and Sam Dyson, instantly giving the team a huge shot in the arm emotionally, as well as giving the pitching staff a top of the rotation ace and the bad bullpen some badly needed relief. In four appearances, Diekman hasn’t allowed a run or a hit.
Two, they DL-ed Tanner Scheppers. While his injury is suspect, the hurt he was doing to the psyche of this team was very real and very damaging.
Three, they jettisoned Leonys Martin. Finally. The quintessential one tool guy takes his tool to Round Rock.
Four, the manager has seemed to settle in on a lineup. The right lineup. It’s the best one the Rangers can possibly run out there night after night. It’s no co-incidence that this team’s lineup has been the exact same these last three games, and their offense is firing on all cylinders as well.
Look what has happened.
The Rangers are playing their best baseball of the season. Last night, they beat the Houston Astros 4-3, and in doing so, gave notice that the Rangers are alive in the West.
Just 56 games remain on the schedule. If the Rangers keep playing this level of inspired baseball, that is more than enough time to make up the two games they are behind in the wild card. And maybe even threaten that six-game lead the Astros have.
After 106 games (and on the 22nd anniversary of Robin Ventura getting his butt kicked by Nolan Ryan), the Rangers are now at .500 with 53 wins and 53 losses. That may not sound that impressive as the Nolan Ryan beatdown, but from the depths this team has crawled out of, getting to .500 is a monumental feat.
Since the Rangers made the Cole Hamels trade, they are 6-1.
It’s been quite a week.