Top Ten Rangers moments of 2017: No. 2. 17 comments

Top Ten Moment #2: Austin Bibens-Dirks outduels Max Scherzer.

One pitcher won the Cy Young. The other pitcher had no shot at even making a major league rotation when the season started.

One team was running away with its division. The other was running in place.

So when Max Scherzer and the Washington Nationals hosted the Texas Rangers with Austin Bibens-Dirkx on the mound, it was a mismatch for the ages.

The Rangers came into a three-game series in DC in fourth place, fourteen games under .500, having lost eleven of its previous thirteen games. The Nationals had won thirteen of its previous seventeen and were comfortably residing in first place, ten games ahead.

Somehow, the Rangers won the first two. Cashner outdueled Roarke in the first game, the Rangers winning 5-2. The next game, the Rangers scored two in the ninth to tie the game, and three in the eleventh to win 6-3.

But no way could the Rangers sweep. Not against Max Scherzer.

Scherzer came into the game 7-3, with a 2.35 ERA, two Cy Youngs already under his belt, and a career that is destined for the Hall of Fame. Bibens-Dirkx was a 33-year-old pitcher who had toiled in anonymity for an entire career in the minor leagues, and entered the game with just one career start in six major league appearances. He did, however, have the strongest spring of any Rangers pitcher. Yet, proving once again that spring training means nothing, he was sent down when he season started. Lucky for Bibbens-Dirkx, he was in the Rangers system, whose pitching is as deep as a Hollywood agent.

On June 11, he was called on to beat the imposing Washington Nationals.

All he did was go toe to toe with one of the top pitchers in baseball, and not blink.

The first batter Bibens-Dirkx faced was Nationals left fielder Brian Goodwin. By the time the second pitch of the game landed, the Nationals were ahead 1-0. The Nationals next hitter, Bryce Harper, drove the first pitch he saw into left for a single, and the the game was off to the start everyone expected.

Then something happened. Bibens-Dirkx coaxed a 4-6-3 double play grounder out of the next hitter. And a groundout to short right after that.

Then he sat Washington down in order in the second.

And in the third.

And in the fourth.

And in the fifth.

And in the sixth.

Eighteen batters in a row were retired when the seventh inning rolled around, the game tied 1-1.

After making it twenty in a row, with two outs in the seventh, Anthony Rendon singled and Adam Lind walked. But Bibens-Dirkx got Matt Wieters to ground out to first to end the threat.

The Rangers picked up three runs in the top of the eighth, and this being in a National League park, and with a manager who doesn’t believe in pushing starters past five innings, Bibens-Dirkx was lifted for a pinch hitter.

Fortunately, Jose Leclec struck out the side in the bottom of the eighth and Alex Claudio retired the side in order in the bottom of the ninth, and when the last ball was lined into Adrian Beltre’s glove at third, and the game was over, Austin Bibens-Dirks was the winning pitcher, his first W ever as a major league starter, and Max Scherzer took the loss.

The Rangers swept the first place Washington Nationals. Then the went on to win two of three in Houston against the first place Astros to get to .500. They would lose twelve of the next twenty, and turn into the disappointing 2017 Texas Rangers once and for all.

But for that one Sunday afternoon in mid-June, Buster Douglas was back in the ring against Mike Tyson. The 5’ 3” point guard ruled again. The 1980 American hockey team returned to the ice. The 16th seed finally won.

On June 11, 2017, Austin Bibens-Dirkx, a career minor leaguer, had his day in the sun. And it was quite a day.