As far as ballgames go, the one the Texas Rangers won Saturday night was a good one. It would have been a good one had they lost it.
They were evenly matched with the Seattle Mariners for 10 innings, with each team getting quality starting pitching and one big swing of the bat apiece. The defense was nearly flawless.
And there was drama, delivered by a usual suspect though not necessarily in his unusual season to date. But Prince Fielder found his power stroke just in time, connecting for the game-tying homer with the Rangers down to their final strike in the ninth inning.
In the end, though, the Rangers were one swing and one play better. Rougned Odor won it with a homer to start the 11th inning, and a gutsy play by Mitch Moreland helped thwart a Mariners rally and make good on the eight terrific innings Colby Lewis gave them in a 2-1 victory.
So enthralled by the victory was manager Jeff Banister that he refused to address the Yu Darvish injury. He wanted the writers to focus on a win that gives the Rangers a chance to win the three-game series Sunday and the feel-good storylines with in it.
“There were so many things that happened in that ballgame to write about that that’s what important,” Banister said. “The story is about a great team win on the road against a club that played hard against us last night, and we came back out and again proved that these guys have great resilience and they stay in the moment, stay engaged the entire time.”
Fielder and Lewis took top billing.
Fielder, who struggles are well-documented, was the Rangers’ last gasp after an Adam Lind homer in the fourth inning had held up for 26 outs. Fielder was in line to be No. 27, but he got ahead of closer Steve Cishek 3-0, took a good swing at a the next pitch, and clubbed a 3-2 offering into the seats in right field.
The Safeco Field crowd, on their feet in anticipate of a 1-0 win, went silent as the game was suddenly tied. Fielder admitted that after what he has gone through the past two weeks, including a two-game benching last weekend, the homer felt especially good.
“Definitely,” Fielder said. “Anytime I can help out, it means a lot. My teammates have been doing an excellent job, they’re doing an outstanding job, and I’m just glad I can contribute.”
Fielder had two other hits and pushed his average to .204 after dropping to .187 last weekend. He entered the season with a .287 career average and was coming off a season in which he batted .305.
He is now riding a four-game hitting streak and has homers in two of his past three games.
“A game-tying home run by a guy that’s been challenged,” Banister said. “Huge for us in this clubhouse. He’s been written about, talked about, written off. This guy comes off huge. Things that everyone’s been looking for.”
Odor ambushed Mike Montgomery’s first pitch of the 11th inning for a 2-1 lead after Matt Bush had left the bases loaded in the 10th. Sam Dyson plunked Nori Aoki in the right leg to open the 11th, but Aoki was erased on a close force play at second base as the Mariners tried to advance him on a bunt.
First baseman Mitch Moreland scooped it and fired to second for an out that kept a runner out of scoring position.
“I knew he was fast, but he just took one in the foot,” Moreland said. “I felt like if I could feel the ball clean, I felt like it didn’t matter who was running, I could get them out.”
Lewis, though, gave the Rangers a chance with his best start of the season. The only run he allowed over eight innings came on the Lind homer.
The Mariners had only two other hits off Lewis, who faced only three batters over the minimum and covered 24 outs in only 88 pitches.
“We needed this game after dropping one yesterday,” Lewis said. “I felt like first time through the lineup they were taking the first pitch, so I just poured it in there. I caught onto that rhythm and tried to make really good pitches. They put the ball in play and I got quick outs.”