Did you ever come home from the grocery store only to find a few items were put into your bag by mistake? Or pull away from the drive-thru and realize they only charged you for about half of what you got?
We all like the feeling of free stuff. Of getting away with something we know we shouldn’t have. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, you feel really good about it.
Like finding a lottery ticket that has a twenty-dollar payoff.
That’s what it feels like every time the Rangers bullpen comes in and doesn’t blow a lead, doesn’t give up three runs, doesn’t melt down.
It’s like you got away with something you weren’t supposed to.
Yesterday, after being down 2-0 in the first, the Rangers battled back, like they do so often, to take a 5-2 lead in the fourth, after scoring three runs in that inning of Marcus Semien’s clutch double. They added another in the fifth to make it six to two. Dane Dunning wasn’t as sharp as he has been earlier in the seasons, and he gave back two of the runs in the Cardinals top half of the sixth, both on home runs. then he walked a batter right after giving up that second home run. Bruce Bochy had seen enough.
That’s when you close your eyes and hope for the best. The Rangers bullpen is coming into the game and the Rangers lead is less than ten runs. Yikes. One pitch here and the game is tied. Four pitches and the Rangers are down three.
Of course, that didn’t happen. All Cole Ragans did was spend his next pitches walking the next hitter. This is how disaster always starts. Luckily, he got the next batter to ground out. Crisis diverted for the moment. They accidentally gave you free large fries.
There are still two more innings to go to try to get it to the one reliable arm, closer Will Smith. That’s six outs. How in the world are they going to get six out without giving up at least six runs?
You hold your breath. Ragans gets the first one in the seventh. Bochy, realizing his luck, gets him out before his home run spree hits him again, and he brings in Josh Sborz, who’s not an upgrade as much as he is an alternative. Like trading in your ’86 Yugo for an ’87 Yugo, same color. Somehow Sborz manages to get the next two outs.
Now, the Rangers just need to score eight runs to give themselves their ten-run bullpen cushion.
They don’t score any.
Sborz is back out for the eighth, only up by two. Then, disaster strikes. Walk, walk, walk, home run. Rangers are losing. The bullpen collapses one more time. Only, that’s not what happened. Somehow, magically, it went like this: Strikeout. Strikeout. Strikeout.
The Rangers made it to the ninth, lead intact. The car wash gave you the deluxe wax and all you paid from was basic. Drive away quick hoping nobody notices.
Will Smith closes it out in the ninth. The Rangers win 6-4, their fifth game in a row. Somehow the bullpen held up.
Free stuff is great. There’s almost a feeling of guilt.