Something special is going on with this Texas Rangers baseball team.
On a night when they were overmatched against Chicago White Sox starter Chris Sale, they hung around to set up Mitch Moreland’s game-winning two-run, pinch-hit single to eke out a 2-1 win at U.S. Cellular Field.
Rangers starter Colby Lewis held his own against Sales’ record-tying, 14-strikeout performance. Both went eight innings, but Lewis was trailing 1-0 entering the ninth when the White Sox turned to reliever David Robertson.
After pinch-hitter Rougned Odor popped out to start the ninth, Shin-Soo Choo worked a walk before Elvis Andrus singled to center. Robertson struck out Joey Gallo before intentionally walking Prince Fielder to load the bases.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister pinch-hit Moreland for Adam Rosales. Moreland ripped a 1-0 pitch to right field, scoring Choo and Andrus to put the Rangers up. Shawn Tolleson pitched the ninth and had two runners on before forcing an infield popup to end the game.
“These guys believe that they can win,” Banister said. “They’ve been down before. They were down all April and continued to battle and never gave up.”
The Rangers’ run since May 4, in which they’re 29-15, has included a mix of offensive outbursts, pitching gems and defensive heroics. The winning, and the way they’re winning is becoming something tangible the players are beginning to feed off.
Friday night’s improbable win came after the team had lost a 1-0 heartbreaker in Los Angeles the night before. The Rangers arrived at their Chicago hotel at 7:15 a.m. Friday, just in time to take a four-hour nap before going to the ballpark. It’s another strong example of a special ingredient at work.
“Absolutely,” Moreland said. “Tough travel day for us facing a really tough pitcher in Sale. We knew it was a going to be grind from the beginning and Colby stepped up and did a great job and matched Sale pitch for pitch for the most part and gave us a chance to win it.”
Sale tied a major league record with his fifth consecutive game with 12 or more strikeouts, joining Pedro Martinez (1999) and Randy Johnson (1998). He tied a career-high with 14 strikeouts and is the first pitcher to strike out 10 or more batters in six consecutive games since Johnson in 2002.
But Lewis was effective, too. He allowed nine hits and matched a season-high with eight innings while striking out seven and walking none. His lone mistake was a solo homer to Tyler Flowers in the fifth that gave Chicago a 1-0 lead.
“I just tried to go out there and match [Sale],” Lewis said. “He threw a great game. It’s a big win for us.”
The Rangers have faced three of the best pitchers in the majors the past three nights — the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke and Sale — and won twice.
“Yes, I believe it’s special,” said Banister, who took a three-hour nap on the plane ride to Chicago but hadn’t been to bed in over 24 hours. “Any time you win games the way we’ve been winning them it is special. Because it’s somebody different all the time. They don’t really care who gets the credit they just want the ‘W’ at the end of the night.”
Fielder, who had one of four hits Friday, said the “special” chemistry started taking shape in spring training.
“It just goes to show how Banister in the spring told us how our mindset should be no matter who is hurt, no matter who we have, we’re going to play hard and try to win,” he said.
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760