Among the things that make good baseball teams go are the delivery of timely hits and receiving contributions from players who were never expected to make a significant impact.
It also helps when the team’s best players live up to their reputations.
The Texas Rangers still believe they are a good team. Of late, seeing has been believing.
On Monday, they struck on the good things they need to keep afloat in the American League playoff picture, with Austin Bibens-Dirkx and Tanner Scheppers, Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre coming through. But their old foe this season, the bullpen, bit them at the worst time.
Matt Bush couldn’t close out the Toronto Blue Jays in the ninth inning, as a slim one-run lead disappeared and turned into a 7-6 loss to open a four-game series. The Rangers have still won eight of their past 12 games. A win, though, would have moved them back above .500 and moved them into a tie for the second wild-card spot with a mere 93 games to go.
Anything can and will happen over the final 3 1/2 months, but the Rangers are trending in the right direction despite what happened to Bush in the ninth inning.
“It was just a situation where he didn’t get the job done,” manager Jeff Banister said. “We don’t look at it as what club it’s against. Anytime you lose a game like that, they’re challenging. However I’m going to rewind and repeat what I say about this team, where they’re able to bounce back and move on.”
Andrus and Beltre drove in all five runs in the Rangers’ big fourth inning, and Bibens-Dirkx, Scheppers and two others delivered three scoreless innings to keep the Blue Jays at bay.
Bibens-Dirkx didn’t enjoy the success he had last time out, allowing only one run in seven innings June 11 at Washington. He lasted only five innings against the Blue Jays, the first team to see him twice in his career, but his final inning was one of the keys in the game.
The Blue Jays struck for four runs in the fourth against the right-hander in his third career start. Jose Bautista hit solo homer with one out, and the Blue Jays scored three times on Steve Pearce’s two-out double.
But the Rangers countered with five in their half of the four, each coming with two outs. Carlos Gomez opened the inning with the first of three walks issued in the inning by Marco Estrada, and Shin-Soo Choo kept the inning alive with a well-placed infield single that loaded the bases with two outs.
Andrus was next, and he singled to left field to score Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy. Estrada then walked Nomar Mazara, who homered in the first inning, to refill the bases.
Then, it was Beltre’s turn, and the future Hall of Famer cleared the bases with career hit No. 2,959, a double to the wall in right-center field, to give the Rangers a 6-5 lead.
The double was No. 596 of his career, moving him into a tie for 17th all time (Luis Gonzalez), and career extra-base hit No. 1,086, moving him into a tie for 23rd all time (Cal Ripken Jr.).
Bibens-Dirkx, the career minor-leaguer who has been a bright spot this season, returned for the fifth despite throwing 37 pitches in the fourth. All he did was deliver a 1-2-3 shutdown inning, striking out Kevin Pillar and Josh Donaldson and getting Bautista to bounce to third.
The Rangers’ rally gave Bibens-Dirkx a chance to cool off and collect himself for the fifth.
“That wait time let me regroup a little bit,” he said. “Having a team like we have, it’s nice. They came out and had my back.”
Scheppers, called up from Triple A Round Rock before the game, wiggled out of a jam in the sixth to preserve the lead, and recorded two more outs in the seventh. Dario Alvarez, up and down twice this season, struck out Kendrys Morales for the final out.
Jose Leclerc, a surprise addition to the Opening Day roster, tossed a scoreless eighth inning before Bush allowed a leadoff double to Ryan Goins in the ninth and a one-out single to Josh Donaldson to tie it. After Bautista walked, Morales singled to left-center to drive in Donaldson.
Banister said that Bush got away from his best pitch, his fastball, and Bush agreed.
“I tried to go back-door on a couple of sliders and left them up, and they did their job,” said Bush, who has blown two saves since taking over for Sam Dyson as closer. “I feel like I didn’t attack guys enough. I can’t lose confidence in my fastball. I got beat on my second-best pitch.”
Rangers vs. Blue Jays
7:05 p.m. Tuesday, FSSW