Better than a walk-off: Rangers stop A’s rally on dramatic ninth-inning relay to home plate

Mike Oz
Big League Stew

Very often, we highlight walk-offs — the game-winning homer or the well-placed single that brings home a go-ahead run. What happened in Thursday's Texas Rangers-Oakland Athletics game was the anti-walk-off. And, in fact, it was far more exciting.

The Rangers led 4-3 with two outs in the top of the ninth. Josh Donaldson stood on first for the A's, and darted away when closer Joe Nathan released a 3-2 pitch. Oakland's Seth Smith singled into centerfield, which would easily move the tying run to third base. But, wait — Texas' Craig Gentry misplayed the ball and Donaldson sensed opportunity. He decided he was going home, even though third-base coach Mike Gallego signaled for him to stop.

For a moment, it looked Gentry's miscue was going to blow the lead for the Rangers, but a perfect relay, through Elvis Andrus, to catcher A.J. Pierzynski beat Donaldson to the plate by a split second. The throw had to be perfect and Pierzynski's tag had to be right on — both were. Donaldson was out and the Rangers won.

It was a great play just for the range of emotions it elicited. For Donaldson, the postgame emotion was frustration.

''As soon as I saw it hit his chest, I was gone,'' Donaldson said. ''It took a perfect throw to get me. It sucks to lose a game that way, but you take that chance. It was frustrating because it was the worst outcome we could have had.''

So yeah, this wasn't a walk-off. It wasn't one of those games that ended with a slow trot around the bases. It was better.

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