Nomar Mazara held up his glove to show the world what he had caught. After coming down, with the ball snowconing at the top of his tiny glove on his right hand, Mazara roared with excitement and pumped his left fist in the air.
The Texas Rangers right-fielder, the youngest player in the major leagues, had just pulled down a game-saving, home run-robbing catch at the top of the wall in the ninth inning Saturday at U.S. Cellular Field.
It ended the ninth, which started with the Rangers rallying to tie the game with a run in the top of the inning against Chicago White Sox closer David Robertson, the first run he has allowed in 2016.
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Today we grinded. We got their closer for a run after they had just homered. That’s big time. That’s not just some random closer. That’s a guy being paid $15 million a year or whatever it is. We could have done a better job, but there’s a lot there to be excited about.
Rangers left-fielder Ian Desmond
The White Sox, however, didn’t relent. They eventually made reliever Nick Martinez, in his first appearance in 10 days and first since being called up from Triple A Round Rock, pay for loading the bases with no outs in the 11th.
Jose Abreu poked a grounder past Adrian Beltre at third base to score Austin Jackson for a 4-3 win.
“I speak for myself here, those are the easy ones to lose, because you play and it’s just a great baseball game,” said Ian Desmond, who homered, walked three times and scored all three Rangers runs.
“That game is why we all play the game. It was fun, it was exciting, it was intense. It came down to, basically, mano y mano, bases loaded. That’s awesome. What a great sport. That’s fun right there.”
After both teams scored a run in the second, both starters held the other offense at bay.
Colby Lewis left after six with the game tied at 1-1. White Sox starter Carlos Rodon was finally chased in the seventh when Desmond picked up his first of three walks. After stealing second, he scored on Elvis Andrus’ triple to the right-center gap to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
In the eighth, the White Sox scored twice against Sam Dyson, first on a leadoff homer by Todd Frazier, and then on Dioner Navarro’s single to center that scored Melky Cabrera.
Dyson finally got out of it with two plays at the plate. Rougned Odor threw home to get Avisail Garcia, and Delino DeShields threw home to get Navarro to hold the score at 3-2.
If you were a fan today and you walk away unsatisfied you don’t like baseball.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister
In the ninth against Robertson, Desmond led off with another walk, stole second and moved to third on a throwing error by the catcher. He tied the game at 3-3 on Andrus’ sacrifice fly to center.
That set up Mazara’s heroics in the bottom of the ninth. After wiping out a lead-off single with a double play, Tom Wilhelmsen’s 2-2 four-seam fastball was ripped toward the wall in right for a potential game-winner. Instead, Mazara, who turns 21 on Tuesday, snagged the fly at the top of the wall to force extra innings.
“It was a great baseball game. A little bit of everything for everybody,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “Well-pitched by two starters, some nice relief appearances, solid base running, some timely hitting, two comebacks, great defense in the outfield with what looked to be a robbed home run. It just got a little sideways there in the last inning.”
Phil Klein struck out the side on 11 pitches in the 10th, but after throwing 26 pitches the night before, wasn’t available to go another inning, Banister said. Jake Diekman was getting a much-needed second day off after already accumulating nine appearances.
“To send Phil back out there that creates too much collateral damage for a reliever,” Banister said. “You wind up having to replace a reliever or have a guy down. We’re thin as it is with the appearances of the guys out there. You’re managing the bullpen for all year not just a short period of time.”
Banister liked having Martinez, a starter, anyway, in case the game went deeper into extra innings. But Martinez last pitched April 12 for Triple A Round Rock. Although he has thrown some bullpen sessions, he hadn’t been in a game in 10 days.
Martinez quickly loaded the bases with no outs after two walks and a hit batter. The Rangers pulled Desmond in from left as a fifth infielder between Beltre at third and Andrus at shortstop, hoping Martinez’s sinker would induce a couple of grounders.
“I put the team in a tough spot,” said Martinez, who took the loss. “I dug myself a very deep hole I couldn’t get out of.”
He almost did, however. The Rangers got the first out at home on a grounder to second. Martinez also induced the next batter, Abreu, into a ground ball for a potential inning-ending double play, but it squirted under the glove of Beltre to push across the winning run.
“I took my eye off it for just one second and ended up missing it,” Beltre said. “The shadow was a little tough, but I should have caught the ball.”
Banister chose to concentrate on the positives.
“There were way too many great things about that game to really ponder or worry about anything negative,” he said. “That was a well-played game by two ballclubs ... if you were a fan today and you walk away unsatisfied you don’t like baseball.”
Rangers at White Sox
1:10 p.m. Sunday, FSSW