The Rangers figured out the secret to winning at home. If you can score only one run a game, just don’t give up any runs.
One of the beauties of baseball is that, on the surface, a 1-0 game seems like it was dull. And, to be sure, this one was for most of the first nine innings. It was like watching two wounded ducks struggling to forage for food.
Games like that always beg the question, was it great pitching or horrible hitting? A lot of both. Baltimore starter John Means pitched seven innings of three-hit shutout baseball, striking out seven. Texas starter Kyle Gibson pitched eight innings of four-hit shutout baseball, striking out six.
Three times in the first nine innings, the Rangers had runners on first and second but couldn’t score, couldn’t get that big hit, couldn’t muster any kind of offense.
Then the tenth inning happened and it made it all worthwhile.
The new extra-innings rule, where a team starts with a runner at second, is designed to prevent seventeen-inning snore-a-thons, and it certainly does that. It infuses offense, and drama, late in a game when it’s needed. The tenth inning of yesterday’s game was about as thrilling of an extra-inning as you’re going to get.
The Orioles free runner at second took third on the first out of the inning, an amazing catch made by Willie Calhoun, who’s not known for his defense. Not only did he rob the Orioles of a double and saved a run from scoring, but the play set up an even more amazing play that was about to unfold when the runner moved to third on Calhoun’s catch.
It’s almost nearly impossible to fathom this but the Orioles got a clean single to right field with a runner at third, and they didn’t score a run. The runner got thrown out at home on a dead perfect throw from right fielder Adolis Garcia. The Orioles threat died there.
The Rangers opened their bottom half of the tenth trying to sacrifice their free runner to third. But a horrible bunt erased that. With one out and now a runner at first, Willie Calhoun worked a walk. Kiner-Falefa struck out. Then Solak walked to load the bases.
The Rangers had life after all.
A couple of pitches later, they had a run and a win. Nate Lowe poked a ball right where the shortstop would have been had they not been playing a shift on him, and Eli White, whose horrible bunt started the innings, scored the only run of the game.
The Rangers were able to prevent being swept by the Orioles because of a brilliant eight innings from Kyle Gibson, an incredible catch by Willie Calhoun, an improbable throw from Adolis Garcia, and a game-winning RBI from Nate Lowe.
It was the most thrilling one-inning game.