Isiah Kiner-Falefa puts final mark on first game at catcher
For the first time in the history of the world, a hyphen-named pitcher threw to a hyphen-named catcher and it worked awesome-great.
Austin Bibens-Dirkx, making the start in place of Yohander Mendez, earned the win Wednesday night as the Rangers swept the Royals to extend their win streak to a season-high five games. It's the first three-game sweep for Texas in 2018.
Bibens-Dirkx catcher was Isiah Kiner-Falefa, the rookie making his first start behind the plate.
"He called a heck of a game," said Bibens-Dirkx, who held KC to one run on five hits in 6 2/3 innings to earn his first win since last September. "He knew what I like to do, and did really well back there."
Kiner-Falefa, who went 1 for 4, said it felt good to get the first game behind the plate out of the way.
"It takes a lot of nerves off my chest," he said. "I was really nervous before the game, but after the first inning, I felt a lot better."
It's the first time he's caught in a game at any level since he was catching for Triple-A Round Rock the day he was called to the big leagues.
"I haven’t been in a game situation in two months," Kiner-Falefa said. "It’s different when guys are swinging, and you have to block. I was just nervous. But right when we got in there, my nerves went away, and I felt like I was back home."
1. To cap it off — Kiner-Falefa ended the game by throwing out Hunter Dozier trying to steal second base. Kiner-Falefa is the first player since 1951 to catch a runner stealing to end a game in his first ever game at catcher, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
2. Near decapitation — On Kiner-Falefa's throw to second, reliever Jake Diekman didn't realize Dozier was going and forgot to duck out of the way of the throw. Falefa altered his feet before throwing knowing Diekman was unaware but his throw over the mound still zipped by Diekman's head only about a foot away.
"It was kind of scary, it was a crazy game, but it worked out, everything worked out," Kiner-Falefa said. "“That was close. I didn't know what to say! I was kind of in shock that he was out and I was kind of in shock that [I almost hit him.] I’m just glad that it didn’t hit him, honestly."
Diekman jerked his head back just as the ball sailed past him and looked stunned as Kiner-Falefa greeted him on the mound.
"I was shocked that the ball was thrown," Diekman said. "But that’s my bad for not getting out of the way."
3. Choo keeps chugging — There was no suspense Wednesday night. Shin-Soo Choo lined a single through the right side to start the game and extend his current major league best on-base streak to 34 games. It's the second-longest streak in the majors this season to the Phillies' Odubel Herrera's 40-game stretch. It's the 10th-longest such streak in Rangers' history and longest for the club since Mark Teixeira's 36-game streak in in 2006. He has 41 hits and 34 walks in 34 games in the stretch, which began after an 0 for 4 game on May 12. He's only gone hitless in four of the 34 games.
4. Perez proceeding — Left-hander Marin Perez expects to begin a rehab assignment with Double-A Frisco Monday night. Perez has been on the disabled list since April 30 with right elbow discomfort. Perez threw a four-inning bullpen before Wednesday's game and says his arm feels good.
5. Smelling better — Rougned Odor homered for just the second time this season. His first came on May 21. He was 2 for 3 with a walk and is now hitting .226, up more than 50 points from a month ago. Since that homer, Odor has 23 hits and nine walks in 25 games.