I’m not saying Tuesday night in Arlington will be someday as memorable of an anniversary as Nolan Ryan head-locking Robin Ventura (22 years ago this week) or the late-night bankruptcy auction (five years ago this week). But as for early-August baseball theater, it was pretty entertaining.
And, after some nail-biting and breath-holding, ultimately it was successful.
The Rangers led the AL West-leading Astros, 4-3, in the 8th inning. Enter reliever Jake Diekman, who arrived in the Cole Hamels trade and has been nothing short of dominating. The lanky lefty dismissed Houston 1-2-3 on five pitches, three of them touching 97 mph on the radar gun. His stuff was electric, and it only amped the intensity on what already felt like a post-season atmosphere.
As Diekman went out for the 9th … check that. I know Shawn Tolleson’s been a delightful surprise out of the bullpen. He’d saved 19 of 20 chances before last night, but, seriously, how do not throw Diekman back out there? As a Ranger he’s thrown 3.0 innings and allowed only one runner, via walk. The Astros couldn’t get the ball out of the infield against his stuff.
I questioned the move as I revisited manager Jeff Banister’s recent questionable strategy regarding Martin Perez in particular. And when Tolleson promptly walked the tying run, it looked ominous. And when Luis Valbuena beat the Rangers’ shift with a ground-ball single to center, the Astros had runners on 1st and 3rd with 0 outs. My remote control was poised for a serious bruise.
Then came the three most important batters of the season for the Rangers. As we nervously moved to the edge of our couches, Marwin Gonzalez lined a one-hopper down the 1st-base line. Mitch Moreland deftly snagged it and safely touched 1st base, putting runners at 2nd and 3rd.
Tolleson then proved Banister right and zipped my mouth and my doubts. He barreled strike one on both Jason Castro and Jose Altuve, and eventually struck them out swinging at high, zipping fastballs.
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Game. Set. Whew.
Since that 21-run debacle against the Yankees last week, the Rangers are 6-1. And by going 10-4 against division leaders like the Yankees and Astros and the 2nd-place Giants and Angels, they’ve climbed all the way back to .500.
The Rangers may not win the West or snag a piece of the Wild Card. But I got the feeling that last night’s escape will keep baseball interesting into September.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.