Games like the one the Texas Rangers and Oakland A’s played Tuesday night are the kind that give validity to the notion that if you watch baseball long enough, you’ll eventually see it all.
The ending was maddening for both sides, with the Rangers giving up a lead in the ninth and then two more runs in the 10th before the A’s allowed three runs on three walks, a single, an intentional walk and a walk-off hit by pitch.
Long before that, a Rangers starting pitcher left injured, a soft-tossing left-hander starred, a future Hall of Famer electrified with his glove and another electrified with his bat.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 5-4 victory.
1. Ian Desmond was in a mood to talk late Tuesday night, but he only wanted to talk about one subject: Alex Claudio.
Who won the game for the Rangers? Not Carlos Beltran, who went 4 for 5 with three RBIs. Not Rougned Odor, who took the Marc Rzepczynski fastball in the shoulder to force in the winning run.
Desmond said the hero was Claudio and his 85 mph fastball and various off-speed frisbees that held the A’s scoreless over four innings and gave the Rangers a chance to win both in nine innings and again in the 10th.
By keeping the game close, Claudio forced the A’s to go to their key bullpen pieces early and use them up to the point that they might not be available Wednesday as the Rangers go for the sweep.
“This guy needs to get some burn,” Desmond said. “He’s continued to do an unbelievable job for us all year long. To get an opportunity to pitch in the big leagues throwing 85 mph now is virtually impossible. He’s not only pitching in the big leagues, he’s contributing in a major part of our team. This guy deserves some love. Someone, please, do right by this guy.”
(After consulting with other hip writers, we determined that Desmond indeed said “get some burn.” I don’t know what that means.)
Desmond kept going.
When asked how he would describe the victory for the Rangers, Desmond said, “I think Alex Claudio did a tremendous job.”
Claudio’s voice is as soft as his fastball, so he doesn’t speak to the media much. A native of Puerto Rico, he is still learning English. But he spoke in Spanish through interpreter Eleno Ornelas.
Claudio entered in the third inning after Lucas Harrell left with a groin injury.
“When those things happen, I have to be ready,” said Claudio, who has a 2.41 ERA this season. “I was just trying to throw strikes and keep the ball low.”
He did and earned the praise of Desmond, who once again showed why many consider him to be one of the finest teammates in the game.
2. A day after winning a game with his bat, an argument could be lodged that Adrian Beltre won Tuesday’s game with his glove. Even the pro-Claudio crowd, led by Desmond, might have to listen.
The third baseman and future inductee to the National Baseball Hall of Fame killed two A’s threats with 5-3 double plays, robbed Stephen Vogt of a double to start the fifth by racing down a popup in shallow left field, and ended the A’s eighth-inning threat with his second 5-3 double play.
The play on Vogt’s popup, with left fielder Jurickson Profar shaded to center field, rates as the biggest because Khris Davis followed with a double that easily would have scored Vogt for a 2-0 lead.
“You saw my speed?” Beltre said. “I put my head down and sprinted as fast as I could and tried to pick it up again. A threw my glove under it and it went in. The play is not easy to do, but you’re doing whatever you can to help the pitching staff make an out.”
The first double play ended the first inning and kept the A’s from scoring despite loading the bases with no outs.
While many rave about Beltre’s arm, and rightfully so, he is incredible in his pursuit of popups. My favorite Beltre play with the Rangers came in June 2011 at Atlanta as he chased down an Eric Hinske popup.
Except it wasn’t really a popup. More like a flare. And by the time Beltre caught it, he was halfway down the left-field line.
His play on Vogt was pretty good. They all were, and the Rangers wouldn’t have had a chance without Beltre.
3. Harrell gave the Rangers two openings to remove him from their starting rotation and to reinsert Derek Holland.
Harrell might not be physically able to make his next start Tuesday after leaving before the third inning because of a strained right groin. He is scheduled for an MRI on Wednesday morning.
If he is able to pitch, he shouldn’t after walking four A’s batters in two innings.
Harrell’s best strength since joining the Rangers has been missing the strike zone. He has 13 walks in only 17 2/3 innings. While he has limited the damage in the three starts in which he has issued multiple walks and the Rangers have won two of those outings, it’s not sustainable.
Holland said that he’s ready after throwing 90 pitches Monday for Triple A Round Rock. He allowed an altitude-aided homer, was pleased with how he mixed his pitches, and worked in and out and up and down.
He will throw a bullpen session Wednesday or Thursday before the Rangers decide if he’s their guy for Saturday or Sunday or as late as Tuesday.
He needs to be, even if Harrell is healthy enough to pitch.