Finally, after fifty-seven tries, the Rangers succeeded. Going into last night’s game, Texas was 0-57 when trailing after seven innings.
Like the most obedient dog, if they were down, they stayed down. They didn’t bite.
The offense couldn’t win late and the bullpen couldn’t hold a lead late, having blown twenty-five out of forty-nine save opportunities. It’s a wonder this team was anywhere near first. This should be a seventy-win team. For the season. So far, they’ve won seventy-four.
Last night it looked like loss fifty-eight was coming. All signs pointed that way. The Rangers were down 3-1 heading into the eighth inning. A loss was as inevitable as a tax increase.
They even scored just one run in the eighth in the most Rangerish way—squandered opportunity. Bases loaded, one out, and the only way they scored was on a ground out.
So when the ninth inning came, there was no reason to think anything would be different. Needing just one run to tie, Jonah Heim led off with a single, and Ezequiel Duran doubled him to third, well, not him, but Josh Smith, the guy who ran for him. A golden opportunity to finally break the curse.
But the Rangers have never seen a golden opportunity they couldn’t turn to pyrite. Leody Taveras struck out. Marcus Semien struck out. And, of course, with first base open, Corey Seager was walked.
Futility had arrived, ready to take its usual bow. The first pitch to Nathanial Lowe was six inches wide. It was called strike one. Ohhh, you realized, the umpire is in on the prank, too.
He took the next two pitches outside and wide too. For some odd reason, the umpire called those balls.
Then, something remarkable happened. Like the Grinch’s heart growing two sizes, sunlight broke through the sky, angels sang, and Nathanial Lowe did the impossible. He singled in runs three and four. The Rangers had somehow, miraculously, managed a comeback.
And the joy of that lasted less than one second for every fan in Rangers Nation when they all, collectively, every single one of them, realized, uh-oh, bullpen.
Out of sheer desperation, Bruce Bochy plucked Jose Leclerc to come in and get three outs in the bottom of the ninth without giving up a run in the process.
Leclerc did what every Rangers reliever does in this situation. Gets the first two out then walks the third batter, setting up the Mets home run to crush the Rangers hearts one more time, or, if not a home run, a the double into the gap.
On the second pitch of the at-bat, Omar Narvaez sent Leclerc’s pitch where so many of Leclerc’s pitches go. Deep into the night. But this one did an unusual thing. It arced downward ever so slightly, defiantly choosing not to go over the fence as so many of his fellow baseballs had after leaving Leclerc’s hand. Rangers right fielder Adolis Garcia was able to track it down with a nice running catch over his head at the edge of the warning track.
And the Rangers won.
If you don’t believe me, look it up.