That’s a rough way to lose a game, but Rangers fans shouldn’t be too discouraged. Sure, the Rangers are again back under .500 and let a chance to pull even with the Twins and remain ahead of the Royals in the wild card race slip away. Instead, after losing in the ninth on a walk-off fly ball that Shin-Soo Choo lost in the sun Sunday afternoon, the Rangers are now 2 1/2 games back of the Yankees for the second wild card spot and have the Twins and Royals in front of them and are tied with the Mariners. But ...
On the bright side (pardon the pun), the Rangers look very capable of staying in the post-season hunt after taking two of the three on the road this weekend. Among the competition, only the Rays have a better rotation ERA. More than one Rangers player, including Yu Darvish, who once again received very little run support, mentioned winning the series. If they keep doing that, they might not run off a gaudy win streak, but they’ll stay in the hunt and that’s all a fan can hope for at this point.
1. Staring At the Sun — Forgive me the use of a U2 song that has grown on me (a lot!) since it it was released in 1997. But the way the game went down Sunday afternoon, a sun reference was almost a given. Side note: There are a lot of songs about the sun. Heck, the Beatles have a slew of them and mention the sun in 17 songs total, according beatlesbible.com.
It was fitting that Lorenzo Cain was the one who sent the fly ball to right that Choo got a glove on but couldn’t in the ninth. Cain had spent much of the game making heart-stopping catches in center field that he appeared to lose sight of at the last moment. He made four such catches where he was fighting the sun to the second before the ball hit his glove.
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“It’s tough, man,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “The ball gets up in the sun, it just doesn’t come out.”
Cain, while ecstatic the sunny sky helped the Royals win, said luck was on his side in the outfield.
“Once the ball gets in the sun, it’s almost impossible to catch,” he said. “So I was able to make a few plays. One of them very lucky. I didn’t really see it there towards the end. I just saw a black dot and threw my glove up there and it went in.”
Choo said he saw the ball off the bat but lost it as it started slicing towards the right-field line.
“Choo was really battling. You could see he was really grinding to try to get to it,” Banister said. “It’s one of those plays that [if it] gets made everybody is happy on our side. They made it to some balls we just didn’t complete the play.”
2. Grilli’s mound maintenance — Jason Grilli got out to the mound and had a flashback to a horrible moment from his career. A divot in the mound where his right leg was landing on the mound was concerning him during his warmup. He called for the Kaufman Stadium grounds crew to come make a quick fix as home plate umpire Paul Emmel made his way out towards the mound. The grounds crew didn’t immediately respond so Grilli tried waving them off, preferring to stay loose without too much delay. But Emmel was there to remind him that his health wasn’t worth risking on a beat up a mound. Emmel was working home plate two years ago this week when Grilli tore his left Achilles tendon trying to cover first during a game in Denver.
Emmel saw Grilli try to wave off the crew and wasn’t having it. He reminded Grilli he was there to see him in agony.
“I don’t blame you, I was there,” Emmel told him. “I never thought I’d see you pitch again. Don’t risk it. It’s not worth it.”
That’s all Grilli needed to hear.
“At this point, I don’t have to ask for any favors,” said the 40-year-old Grilli. “I don’t want to do any damage to myself.”
Grilli was all class, of course, answering questions about the fly ball Shin-Soo Choo lost in the sun with the grace of a wise veteran.
“That’s baseball. As a reliever, you live and die by the sword,” he said, dismissing a question about throwing a good pitch to force the potential inning-ending flyout. “Sometimes when you don’t, you have a phenomenal play behind you. That’s how baseball goes,” he said, perhaps not coincidentally quoting former Rangers manager Ron Washington.
3. Nickname for Claudio — Reliever Alex Claudio has earned a new nickname. After earning saves in consecutive nights Friday and Saturday, Andrew Cashner called Claudio the Machete. “The last couple days he’s just coming in and slashing guys down,” Cashner said. “He’s been a special reliever for us this year.”
Claudio has been used in a every conceivable role as a pitcher, Cashner pointed out, including his first major league start in May. “He’s done it all,” he said. “To me, that’s the toughest thing to do, when you never know when you’re going to be in a game.”
It’s nothing for the Machete.
4. Claudio Take 2 — If it seems like Claudio is the most efficient pitcher you’ve ever seen it’s not an illusion. In three appearances against the Royals over the weekend, he combined to throw 23 pitches, including eight in a 1-2-3 eighth Sunday. Claudio is averaging 12.9 pitches per inning pitched as reliever, the fewest in the majors.
5. Banister’s swag — Manager Jeff Banister wore T-shirts representing teams from the Negro League before games this weekend. He was wearing a Kansas City Monarchs shirt on Saturday and a Pittsburgh Grays (originally called the Homestead Grays) on Sunday. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum was founded in Kansas City, Mo., in 1990. Banister met Negro League legend Buck Leonard during his time with the Pirates’ organization. Leonard played for the Grays with Josh Gibson. “I’m big on [celebrating] it,” he said. “being in Pittsburgh and hearing all the stories of the Grays and [Pittsburgh] Crawfords.”
Banister once visited what remains of the original field in Homestead, Pa.
“Standing at the plate where the legend of Gibson hitting the furthest home run ever hit, that was kind of a treat,” Banister said. Banister found the shirts at a shop near the club’s hotel in Kansas City.