Delino DeShields had the most important at-bat of the game last night, and may have had the two biggest at-bats for the Rangers this year. Both eerily similar.
The first one happened May 4. With the Rangers limping out of the gate after a horrendous April, they crawled into Houston with an 8-16 record, already 9.5 game out, having not won two games in a row yet, going up against an Astros team that had won ten in a row. The Rangers were in dead last and left for dead.
In the eighth inning of a 1-0 game, Rangers losing, Dallas Keuchel was on the mound, with his 0.80 ERA, and already sporting ten strikeouts. DeShields came up with one out and quickly went to 0-2. It looked like another futile effort for the Rangers.
But DeShields battled, grinded it out, hung in there, and did any and all other clichés, and coaxed a walk.
Suddenly the moribund Rangers had life.
DeShields stole second. Smolinski blooped a single. And the Ranger, just like that, tied it. They eeked out a run in the ninth to win. That was the catalyst for everything good to come. They ended up sweeping the Astros, and turning their season around.
Because of one key at-bat.
The Rangers came into yesterday’s game in Seattle in the thick of the playoff race, but in an offensive funk that saw them lose two of three to the Angels, and lose some critical footing.
For five innings, the offense remained sleepless in Seattle.
Then, in the top of the six, again with one out, Delino DeShields came up against a smothering, stingy Roenis Elias. He quickly got down 0-2. Then, just like in that May game in Houston, he fought off a valiant effort to strike him out, and he cajoled his way to a walk. Suddenly, the moribund Rangers offense showed signs of life.
Choo singled, Fielder was plunked by a pitch, and Beltre singled in two. And the Rangers playoff momentum was heading back in the right direction.
The Rangers won 3-0 behind Gallardo and an airtight bullpen. And, with the Astros losing, they move to within two games of Houston.
At this time of the season, every at-bat matters. Delino DeShields came up huge. Twice, now. He has become the spark plug that has jumpstarted the heart of this team when it has really needed it.
Maybe Delino DeShields should have a new nickname: Delino DeFibrillator, for his ability to wake this team up from the dead.