Ronald Guzman describes game-saving catch versus Astros
It was the type of play that if it had occurred in the playoffs it would be remembered for years to come.
Instead, rookie first baseman Ronald Guzman's game-saving catching in the eighth inning Friday night might go unnoticed by many.
But it was a thing of beauty and preserved the Rangers' precarious 1-0 lead and eventual win against the Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Cole Hamels and three relievers combined to one-hit the Astros. How rare is that? Like the cow is still moving rare.
It's the first time Houston has been held to one hit since Aug. 20, 2015 against the Rays.
Only two teams have more hits this season than the Astros' 346 (the Red Sox and Braves). A year ago, Houston's majors-leading 1,581 hits was more than a 100 more than the next closest American League team.
True, the Astros have struggled to score at home recently. Friday's shutout was their fourth this season. All have come at Minute Maid Park, including in three of their past four home games. Yikes.
But enough about the Astros' offensive issues. Back to Guzman's catch. The rookie rated the difficulty of the play a 9 out of 10.
"I didn't know how far [right-fielder] Nomar (Mazara) was playing, and I didn't know if [Rougned] Odor was going to come and get it, so I was kind of in between," he said. "At the last second, I was like 'I got to make that catch.'" So I just tried to put a glove on it. I never took my eyes off the ball, so I never even saw if I was in fair territory or foul."
He was in fair territory by about two feet. It's doubtful Odor would have made been able to make the play and Mazara had little to no shot.
Manager Jeff Banister immediately made a Willie Mays reference when asked about the catch. Mays, of course, made a famous over-the-head catch center field in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series. Guzman's play wasn't as amazing at that especially considering the stakes involved. But he made it look as easy as Mays, that's for sure.
"He’s got long strides," Banister joked about how nimbly Guzman made the dash to get under the ball. "It probably saved the game for us at that point. That’s kind of his deal. He’s a tremendous defensive first baseman. He makes plays like that. It was a good read by him to turn and still be able to make that catch."
Four thoughts from Friday's 1-0 shutout:
1. Nomar getting handsy — Nomar Mazara praised his hands after Wednesday's game and manager Jeff Banister was asked to explain what Mazara (and other players) mean when they talk about using their hands in the batter's box.
"When your head stays still your hands can go where they need to go to," Banister said. "When you feel rushed in the batter’s box you typically use the bigger part of your body — your shoulder, your front side. You want to stay on your legs and start the swing with your hands and your backside. Not the big muscles, not the shoulders, not the upper body.
When you see that that’s when the head is pulling off, the front side pulls off and the bat drags."
Mazara was 2 for 4 with a lead-off double in the seventh that led to the only run of the game. He's 7 for 14 with a double and three homers in his past four games.
"The really good hitters have the ability to get his [front] foot down and start the swing with his hands and his hands go where the eyes tell them to go," he said.
2. IKF's versatility — Isiah Kiner-Falefa is still on the Rangers' roster despite Odor's return because he has proved to be an indispensably versatile option off the bench. That could also include being used as an emergency catcher, Banister said. The more the positions, the better, Kiner-Falefa said.
"It was in the same thing in the minor leagues, going from catcher to third base, shortstop, left field, wherever they needed me to go," he said. "so I’m ready for whatever they need me to do."
Kiner-Falefa said he already goes out sometimes with the pitchers when they're throwing flat-ground sessions.
"I just go out there for fun," he said. "I enjoy BP, running around, so if I’m good on my ground balls for that day, I’ll just go and have some fun."
He's alsp played seven games in left and two in center in the minors.
"I enjoyed it out there," he said. "Whatever they need me to do, I’ll be ready to do it."
3. One-hitter history — The Rangers' last one-hitter was Aug. 12, 2013 at Houston. On the mound that day? Yu Darvish, who had a no-hitter until Carlos Corporan's one-out homer in the eighth. Friday's one-hit shutout is the first for Texas since Aug. 23, 2010 against the Twins and first on the road since June 29, 1999 in Anaheim.
4. Yohander Mendez — Banister said pitcher Yohander Mendez provides length in the bullpen but that he'd prefer to keep the young left-hander a starter. That may mean sending him back down to Triple-A Round Rock to get more action on the mound. Mendez has been with the Rangers since May 3 but has yet to pitch in a game. "He’s a starter and we want to keep him that way," Banister said. "We want to keep him stretched out to be able to start. At some point, we’ll have a decision to make." But that wasn't going to be before Friday's game, Banister said.