If not for Robinson Chirinos, Tuesday’s game between the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers would have made for a hard-to-read true crime drama.
No one could doubt the injustice of Chi Chi Gonzalez working a flawless 8 1/3 innings only to taint the outing with one bad pitch in the ninth that Justin Turner turned on, making a would-be shutout an undeserved no-decision.
Chirinos, however, the catcher admittedly angry over his role in Gonzalez’s misfortune turned Greek tragedy into justice served, smacking another bad pitch — this one on a 1-1 count from Los Angeles reliever Josh Ravin — into the left-field seats for a 3-2 Rangers’ victory, Texas’ fourth walk-off win of the season in front of 31,897.
“You guys know me,” Chirinos said. “I was calling the eight innings before that, a shutout, and one pitch tied the game. I was just mad at myself.
“You just forget and go out there and try to get on base and try to win this game. And just thank God I got the pitch I was looking for.”
Texas is 27-14 since May 4, the best in baseball during that span, riding a starting pitching rotation that turned in the Rangers’ record 12th consecutive quality start in sweeping the Dodgers at Globe Life Park, the Rangers’ fourth victory of the five-game homestand.
Though the stat sheet will show Shawn Tolleson (2-1) as the winner, Gonzalez was fantastic, giving up two runs on five hits and two walks.
Adrian Gonzalez’s single to center in the first was one of three hits that were hit hard.
The Dodgers (37-28) had an infield single with two outs in the third and a flare to right from Yasmani Grandal in the fifth. Jimmy Rollins followed Grandal’s single with a walk, marking the first time the Dodgers put two runners on base at the same time.
Gonzalez got out of the inning with the first of two strikeouts, this one of Joc Pederson.
The Dodgers fifth was also Gonzalez’s more tiresome … 22 pitches.
Gonzalez responded by retiring the next six hitters, among them Andre Ethier, whose flare Elvis Andrus flagged with a sliding catch in short right field in the seventh.
After a Pederson’s infield single in the third, Gonzalez retired 18 of the next 21 hitters he faced before heading to the ninth with a scoreless streak of 14 innings.
He walked Howie Kendrick on a close ball four and then threw a fastball on his only pitch to Turner. Chirinos and pitching Mike Maddux called for the two-seamer inside. It was more middle of the plate.
“After the walk, I was like, ‘OK, so what? Groundball double play,’” Gonzalez said. “I think he had grounded out once, to Elvis. That’s what I was trying to do.
“We were pounding everybody in the whole game. We were just waiting to see who made the adjustment, and he made the adjustment. Yeah, I could’ve made a better pitch, but he got it and hit it well and it went out.”
The Rangers’ two runs in the first and fifth appeared to be all it would take.
Prince Fielder scored on Joey Gallo’s bases-loaded walk in the first, and Fielder beat out an infield single that scored Hanser Alberto in the fifth.
Gallo worked his RBI walk by taking three straight balls after falling behind 1-2 in the count.
“A very mature outing,” manager Jeff Banister said of Gonzalez. “Was on the attack all night long. One bad pitch.”
While no one is yet ready to measure Gonzalez for his bust for enshrinement, he also doesn’t appear to be David Clyde either.
Time will tell how Gonzalez’s story unfolds, but the first chapters look like a good read.
Gonzalez is the first Rangers pitcher to allow two runs or less in each of his first four career starts since Darren Oliver in 1995.
“Me and [Chirinos] were in the battle the whole time, putting down the right fingers and getting outs. And sure enough, I give up the home run.
“And he gets it back for me.”