Desperation hasn’t set in with the Texas Rangers, at least not publicly, so there was no sense of desperation as they were slipping toward being swept in three games Thursday night.
Make no mistake, though, that things had slipped away.
All the positive things they had done at the plate in the first two innings were washed away when a play that should have been made wasn’t made. They couldn’t stop bouncing into double plays.
Baltimore, meanwhile, recovered from the Rangers’ early haymaker and could do little wrong. But then it all went wrong for the Orioles in the seventh inning in the most unlikely of ways.
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The Rangers took advantage of two errors by sure-handed shortstop J.J. Hardy to plate three unearned runs in the seventh inning and avoid a sweep with an 8-6 victory after blowing a 5-0 lead.
The Rangers, who have to do extraordinary things simply to win games these days, weren’t complaining, but they also were aware that the unlikely occurrence of Hardy faltering paved the way to their win.
“Very surprised,” manager Ron Washington said. “He catches everything he gets to. I’ve never seen him make a bad throw. As a matter of fact, I’ve never seen him make an error.”
That’s not much of a stretch. Hardy won Gold Gloves in 2011 and 2012, and he entered Thursday with one error this season. Only once previously in 1,166 career games had he had a multiple-error game.
But Hardy committed a career-high three against the Rangers, two in the pivotal seventh inning after the Orioles had forged a 5-5 tie in the fifth.
The first was a throwing error as Hardy rushed to get Rougned Odor at first on a slow roller. Instead, Odor moved to second and later to third as Shin-Soo Choo grounded out.
The Orioles’ infield was in when Elvis Andrus sent a roller to Hardy, who booted it to allow Odor to race home with the tiebreaking run.
Two batters later, Alex Rios singled home Mitch Moreland, who had traded places with Andrus on a fielder’s choice and moved to second on a single by Adrian Beltre. Chris Gimenez followed with another RBI single.
“You have to [take advantage],” Washington said. “That just goes to show you it can happen to anyone.”
The victory overshadowed two iffy plays by center fielder Leonys Martin, one trying to steal third base with two outs and another that extended the Orioles’ three-run fifth inning and allowed them to rally into a 5-5 tie.
The Rangers quickly went to work against spot starter Chris Tillman as their first four hitters reached. The third hitter, Moreland, drove in two runs with a single.
The first five Rangers reached in the second, a stretch that included a two-run homer by Michael Choice. Andrus added an RBI single for a 5-0 lead.
But the Rangers would collect only one hit over the next three innings as the Orioles started their comeback against Colby Lewis.
David Lough doubled to start the third, and Nick Markakis homered two batters later.
After a scoreless fourth, the Orioles scored three times with two outs in the fifth to tie the game. Lewis struck out Nelson Cruz for a third time for the second out, but Adam Jones’ liner to center fell out of a diving Martin’s glove for two runs, and Chris Davis followed with a single to right to tie.
Lewis was charged with five runs in five innings, but Washington thought he had pitched better than the line showed.
“He made the pitch to get out of that inning,” Washington said. “He still had a lot left. You saw a lot of heart out there.”
The Rangers also saw an unlikely occurrence pave their way to a badly needed victory. In a season in which they have to do extraordinary things to win a game, they weren’t complaining.