Jeff Banister emotional after calling on Austin Bibens-Dirkx's debut
Good grief! Could the good vibes get any better out at Globe Life Park? Not only did the Rangers extend their win streak to eight games (which matches the major league high in ’17), move above .500 for the first time this season, and come within Thursday’s afternoon series finale from a perfect 8-0 homestand ... they also have feel-good players stories to spare.
It’s almost too much for the Reaction to handle, especially with the quick turnaround. I love day games but a 1 p.m. start after a night game really puts a damper on my leisure nighttime routine. I’m usually not asleep until 3 a.m. That won’t cut it tonight. Oh, well. Let the good times roll!
Here’s the feel-good reaction after a 9-3 win over the Phillies:
1. Hooray for Hoying — Jared Hoying was brought up to replace the injured Carlos Gomez primarily because he’s a plus defensive player. But the Rangers will take his bat, too. He went 4 for 4 with a double and his first-career major league homer, a two-run shot in the fifth inning. It came on an 0-2 pitch in his 55th plate appearance and sixth since being called up.
“It was unbelievable. I got down 0-2 right away. I just kind of told myself, be patient, let’s not overswing,” he said. “Let’s cut down on the swing a little bit and I tracked the ball and he kind of left a slider up. I got enough barrel on it. The good thing was the wind was blowing a little bit. I had a good feeling. I thought I got enough of it. It was awesome.”
What did it feel like?
“It’s kind of a sigh of relief. It’s one of those feelings you can’t hardly explain it. It was a real sigh of relief running around the bases,” he said.
2. Bravo Bibens-Dirkx — The journeyman pitcher who had been in the minors since 2006 and was called up on May 7 finally made his major league debut. According the to the Rangers, his 10-day wait is the longest for a player on the active roster to make his Rangers’ debut since Kevin Brown in 1986. He entered in the ninth with a seven-run lead. Nerves and adrenaline were likely going in overdrive and it showed. He hit his first batter, Aaron Altherr. He regrouped to strikeout Tommy Joseph and got Michael Saunders to foul out to catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Maikel Franco singled in Altherr with a bloop to shallow center field before Daniel Nava lined out to first to end the game.
“It was just a lot of fun. It’s everything that I had hoped and dreamed for,” he said. “Before I had gotten out there and thrown that first pitch, I had to take a step back and try to take it all in and take a deep breath and just go out there and try to throw strikes.”
Manager Jeff Banister got a little emotional discussing the moment after the game. Players were letting Banister know they wanted to see Bibens-Dirkx make his debut.
“It’s obviously emotional for everybody. They couldn’t wait,” Banister said. “They love the guy. They love the story. They relish in it also. It’s fun for everybody.”
All of the Rangers’ players were up on the top step of the dugout watching Bibens-Dirkx and applauded with joy when Chuck Morgan announced his name to the crowd.
“He had a lot of advocates in that dugout tonight. That’s what’s great about our game,” he said. “The hugs, the smiles. It’s worth sitting in this seat and being able to have a hand in things like that.”
Bibens-Dirkx couldn’t help but notice his the love from his teammates.
“I could hear them a little bit, which, is kind of rare,” Bibens-Dirkx said. “Usually, I don’t hear much when I’m out there, but I could definitely hear them. The crowd here at Ranger Stadium gave me a very warm welcome, and that was awesome.”
He’ll display the ball he threw his first strikeout somewhere in his house, he said.
“For sure, I’m pretty sure they said I was getting the jersey tonight, even though it’s covered in mustard,” he said. “Eventually, when that’s clean — it’ll probably take a few washes — hopefully I get that and the ball and do something with it, put it up on a wall somewhere, because it’s definitely a memorable moment.”
3. Cashing in — Andrew Cashner insisted the other day that the lack of run support didn’t bother him. Additionally, he wasn’t concerned with his record (0-3), only the team’s record. But he’ll take what he got Wednesday night. The Rangers had scored a combined six runs in his previous six starts while he was on the mound. On Wednesday, they scored nine in the first five. He earned his first win with the Rangers. Incidentally, his last win was against the Phillies while pitching for the Marlins last September. The nine runs of support match the most runs he’s received by his team in his career.
“He threw well. His velocity was down but when a guy’s velocity is down, it makes his movement much better,” Lucroy said. “He had a good sinker and kept the ball down. He did a good job.”
4. Lucroy catching up — Lucroy has hit safely in six consecutive games, including a double and RBI Wednesday night. Lucroy started slow at the plate and was hitting .200 at the start of May. He’s now at .274 on the season and has five extra-base hits and four RBIs in May. In April, he had three extra-base hits and four RBIs. He has been scorching this month, hitting .372 with a .429 OBP, .535 SLG and .964 OPS.
5. Double (play) your pleasure — The Rangers turned four double plays (all behind Cashner) on Wednesday to increase their major league-leading total to 57. The Brewers are the next closest team with 47. Also, the Rangers’ starting pitchers lead the majors with a 3.35 ERA.