It’s starting to feel as if the Rangers are not going to make the playoffs this season.
It was all riding on yesterday’s crucial game against Toronto. In a must-win game, the Rangers sent their ace to the mound.
Kohei Arihara, the pride of Hiroshima, Japan, a city known for destruction, took the mound with his 5.29 ERA and dreams of immortality, looking to take his place in the long line of Texas Rangers rotation greats like Chan Ho Park, Mike Foltynewicz, Mark Clark, Dallas Keuchel, Kyle Lohse, Spencer Howard, Shelby Miller, Matt Moore, Ross Detweiler, Joe Saunders, Rich Harden, and Tyson Ross.
The thirty-year-old right-hander had it all going for him to start off the game. He had a no-hitter going after the first pitch of the game, and was hoping to take that success into the second pitch of the game.
But Blue Jays lead-off hitter George Springer broke up the no-no with a double to left. The shutout was still intact.
He dueled the pesky Blue Jay hitters through one-third of an inning before they finally got to him. A double by Alejandro Kirk followed a double by Bo Bichette and Toronto was finally able to break through with its first two first runs.
Arihara would settle down, getting a second out of the first inning after a brief walk. With the confidence of two-thirds of an inning behind him, the determined Rangers starter found his rhythm. He gave up two singles in a row that resulted in two more runs, numbers three and four of the inning. But he got out of the jam with a groundout, proudly walking off the mound knowing he had faced nine batters and only one runner was left on base.
The Rangers scored three in the bottom of the first, keeping the playoff hopes alive. Arihara took the ball in the second inning and walked only two Blue Jay hitters, surrendering no runs.
But it was the third inning when the fate of Arihara’s Rangers legend was sealed. A walk, a single, a double, then a home run to the first four Blue Jays hitters made it 8-3. Then, a walk and a double made it 9-3. The statue makers were put on alert. Arihara’s bronze likeness was ordered to greet fans entering The Shed.
Undaunted by the pressure of performing like a successful major league pitcher, Arihara took the ball in the fourth inning. He promptly gave up a double, a home run, then a single, leaving the game having given up eleven runs in just 3.0-plus innings of work, and taking a 9.45 ERA for the season with him. It was a master class in Rangers pitching.
Somewhere on the unemployment line, Jon Daniels smiled. The rotation he built performed exactly as expected.