When the ninth inning arrived Saturday night, the Safeco Field roof was open and it was very plain to see that the skies weren’t entirely dark.
The game was going to end in about 2 hours, 20 minutes, a sportswriter’s dream. Then Prince Fielder came to bat in the ninth, and did what no one expected — hit a home run.
If a game that was going to end quickly isn’t going to end quickly, at least let it be a good game. That one was really good.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 2-1 win in 11 innings.
1. Of all the good that went down for the Rangers over 11 innings, the best was the performance of Fielder. His game-tying homer was a no-doubter and is the kind of big hit that could really get a struggling player going.
No matter who it is and how great he has been, whenever a player is batting .187, his confidence isn’t going to be high. Fielder, though, might have given himself a confidence boost by saving his team from defeat and giving them a chance to win.
He also had two other hits and, gasp, finished the game at .204. Fielder is riding a four-game hitting streak, and he has homers in two of his past three games.
Just as Mitch Moreland, who also has hits in four straight, might becoming out of his funk, Fielder might be crawling out of his as well. They’re not there yet. They need more than four games to say that their bats have been reborn.
But just imagine a Rangers lineup with Fielder and Moreland once again legitimate threats. An offense that is already one of the league’s best will get even better, and a team that has the league’s best record will get even better.
2. Yu Darvish isn’t going to start Monday. There’s no word on when he will start again, though his words seem to indicate that it will be sooner rather than later.
“I have heard it’s common for players that have had Tommy John surgery to have issues like this,” Darvish said. “Right now, I don’t want to push it and make it worse. It’s a precaution. We hope it’s nothing serious and that I can be back soon.”
The right-hander will hop on a plane for Arlington and have an MRI exam and a checkup Monday with team physician Dr. Keith Meister for the same neck and shoulder stiffness that got him Wednesday and forced him to leave his start after only five innings.
The Twitter was ablaze with remembrances of the 2015 declaration Yu Darvish made after he left his first spring start after one inning with right triceps tightness.
“This is nothing to worry about,” he said.
Two days later it was announced that he had a torn ulnar collateral ligament that needed to be replaced.
The sense here is that Darvish is having one of his neck episodes. This one would be No. 4, by my count, to go with one in 2013 and two in 2014. The second one in 2014 came at Minnesota, where he woke up with a stiff neck and was sent to a Minneapolis hospital for an MRI.
He allowed five hits and struck out 12 over eight scoreless innings five days later at Washington.
Darvish is also dealing with return from a significant layoff. He’s feeling things that he has never felt before because he has never been through it. Pitching Doug Brocail has twice, and he said that some days are better than others.
“There’s days you throw a pitch and you go, ‘God dang, did I just blow out again?’ ” Brocail said. “And 30 seconds later it feels perfect.”
If the tests and checkup comeback normal, maybe Darvish will have learned another vital piece of info on his way back from Tommy John. It’s a tough road even for the best.
3. Colby Lewis continues to defy baseball medical logic while at the same time becoming a poster boy for hip resurfacing and road cycling as ways for major league pitchers to further their careers.
Lewis turned in his best start of the season, allowing one run on three hits in eight super-efficient innings. He needed only 88 pitches to record 24 outs.
The one run came on a fourth-inning solo homer by Adam Lind that was a strike away from being the game-winner before Fielder struck in the ninth.
Lewis got a no-decision, but he lowered his ERA to 3.00 with his league-leading 11th start. As the Rangers suck wind in voting for the All-Star Game, Lewis might emerge as a candidate to represent the Rangers.
There are others. Adrian Beltre is always going to finish high in the player voting. Nomar Mazara is the league’s best rookie. Ian Desmond is emerging as a top center fielder. Cole Hamels is, well, Cole Hamels. Sam Dyson was already a top-notch set-up man and is showing his worth at closer.
That Lewis might be considered to be an All-Star might boggle some minds. He’s essentially pitching on a fake hip and had knee surgery in the off-season. He cycled his legs back into shape, and in the process lost 30 pounds.
And he’s two months away from turning 37.
Can he keep it up? Why not? He’s pitching better than anyone expected he would this season after signing a one-year, $6 million deal to be the Rangers’ No. 5 starter. His numbers look more like a No. 1 or No. 2.