It was just one out of 162 games, but when Ron Washington called on Joe Nathan for the top of the ninth inning without the lead, it was obvious the game meant something to Washington and the Texas Rangers. The Rangers had finally picked up their first victory in a week on Saturday night and they clearly wanted to head into the All-Star break on a bit of a roll.
Just like so many other recent games, the Rangers' offense had once again been completely silent. Heading into the ninth inning they had only managed four hits and one walk. However, the Rangers staff had kept them in the game for the first eight innings. Roy Oswalt allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings and then Tanner Scheppers, Robbie Ross and Mike Adams shut down the Twins for the next 2 1/3. That is when Washington called on Nathan with the Rangers down a run.
The Rangers were heading into the All-Star break and Nathan should get decent rest over the next week, even though he is expected to pitch on Tuesday night. However, Nathan had pitched two innings in the Rangers extra-inning victory the night before and it was the first time he had thrown more than an inning in three years. It was a bit of an unorthodox time to use him, but Washington wanted the victory. Nathan came on and did struggle to the point that he could not make it out of the inning. He ended up giving up two runs, both of which were unearned, but just did not have his best stuff and Washington had to go to Michael Kirkman to get out of the ninth. That is something that may never be said again, but Kirkman did have to get Joe Nathan out of a jam.
Washington's plan had been to keep it a one run game and hopefully have the Rangers' offense come to life in the bottom of the ninth. Instead, the Rangers started the inning down 3-0, which was a pretty large mountain to overcome for the current state of this offense. That ended up not being the case as the Rangers once again looked like the offense that everyone knows they are capable of being.
Ian Kinsler led off the inning and got on base by a throwing error, then moved to third on a wild pitch and scored when Elvis Andrus grounded out. The Rangers were finally on the board and then after a Josh Hamilton foul out, Adrian Beltre singled and Nelson Cruz doubled. That brought up Michael Young who already had two hits on the night and drove both Beltre and Cruz in to tie the game up. That was all the Rangers would get in the bottom of the ninth, but it was all they needed to get their momentum going once again.
Kirkman got the first out of the 10th inning, but had to leave after straining his hamstring covering first base. That meant that Yoshinori Tateyama was up and he went on to pitch 1 2/3 innings while only allowing one base runner. At that point, the Rangers were really out of arms in the bullpen, but turned to Scott Feldman who had started on Wednesday night and Feldman gave them two scoreless innings and only needed 19 pitches to get the job done.
The Rangers could not get a run across in the 10th, 11th or 12th, even though they had runners at third in both the 11th and 12th. It was once again Michael Young in the bottom of the thirteenth that led off the inning with a double and then was followed with an intentional walk to David Murphy. Mike Napoli who had struggled all night then singled and Young was at third with no outs, but Craig Gentry then grounded out and Young was out at the plate. However, Kinsler quickly singled and the ballgame was over.
The Rangers had their second walk-off victory in two nights, which allowed for a happy flight for the Rangers' eight All-Stars and coaches as they headed for Kansas City as well as a good start to a needed break for the rest of the club. It was just another game, but as Washington and the Rangers displayed, it meant a little more to them that it normally would.
John Bowman is a lifelong baseball and Texas Rangers fan that loves to ponder the deeper aspects of the game. Some of his first baseball memories involve Arlington Stadium nachos, Charlie Hough's knuckleball, dirt on Pete Incaviglia's uniform and the voices of Mark Holtz and Eric Nadel as he fell asleep.
- Sports & Recreation
- Joe Nathan
- Ron Washington