A night after scoring the game-winning run, Shin-Soo Choo drove it in the best way he could — by getting on base.
Choo worked a bases-loaded walk against Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon to bring in the game-winning run in the ninth and send the Rangers to a 4-3 walk-off victory for the second time in as many nights.
“[Papelbon] has definitely had a lot of success, so to go out and rally at the end and come out with a win to seal the series is definitely a nice start to the season,” designated hitter Mitch Moreland said.
Moreland played an important role to set up the situation for Choo, too. Just like several other batters that kept the ninth inning alive.
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That all came about because the bullpen did its job to keep the game within reach. Four relievers combined for four scoreless innings after Robbie Ross exited after allowing three runs over five innings.
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“That ninth inning was on display for everyone and that at-bat Choo had certainly was a great one,” manager Ron Washington said. “Certainly had to throw it over the plate. When he saw a pitch he liked over the plate, he swung at it. When he didn’t see one he liked, he didn’t swing at it.
“That’s why you play nine innings. We sort of squandered some chances, but in the end we did what we needed to do. We got focused and put some good at-bats together.”
Adrian Beltre started off the ninth with a single, Moreland had a one-out double, and pinch hitter Jim Adduci beat out a run-scoring infield single.
“Trying to get a good pitch to hit, be aggressive and make something happen,” Adduci said.
Leonys Martin followed with a game-tying RBI single to right, and pinch hitter Donnie Murphy drew a walk on four pitches to load the bases.
Choo stepped into the batter’s box and fell behind in the count 1-2 before taking three consecutive balls to pull off a rare walk-off walk win. The last time the Rangers won a game in that fashion was on July 16, 1999, against Arizona, when Todd Zeile drew a bases-loaded walk against Dan Plesac.
The Rangers extended their streak of winning the opening series to a fourth consecutive season. But that streak appeared to be coming to a close most of the night.
The Rangers blew a perfect opportunity to take the lead, or at least tie the game, in the first inning after the Phillies scored an unearned run.
Choo and Elvis Andrus reached second and third with no outs. But Prince Fielder struck out and Beltre hit a weak grounder between the pitching mound and first base.
Phillies right-hander Kyle Kendrick bobbled the ball initially, but recovered in time to strand Choo between third base and home plate. Alex Rios then flew out to deep center to end the inning.
The next best scoring opportunity came with runners at first and second with one out in the fourth, but Moreland bounced into a double play.
The Rangers eventually scored against Kendrick in the seventh when Martin’s two-out single scored Moreland, who reached with a one-out triple.
The offense came to life late and won a game in Ross’ starting debut.
He allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits with two walks and seven strikeouts over five innings. The only mistake was hanging a slider to Ryan Howard, who sent it over the right-center field wall for a two-run homer in the third inning.
Ross didn’t pitch deep because of a 28-pitch first inning. He had thrown 96 pitches after five.
“I thought it was a real good start,” Washington said. “He made only one bad pitch, the one he hung to Howard. Other than that, he kept us in the ballgame.”