It was the bottom of the 9th inning and the score was even. The previous hitter, ex-Yankee utilityman Eduardo Nuñez, laced a game-tying single to right field, and advanced to 2nd on Alex Rios's throw to the plate. So, to reset -- with the score tied at three apiece, and two outs, Nuñez stood at 2nd base with Kurt Suzuki at the plate. Then, on a routine grounder to Adrian Beltre, this happened:
h/t to @cjzero
- As you can see, Eduardo Nuñez is indisputably roaming outside the base paths. From where the umpire was positioned down the 3rd baseline -- approximately 10 feet from where Nuñez ended up while attempting to evade Beltre's reach -- it should have been a no-doubt-about-it, automatic out. There is no sensible conclusion to draw other than the ump flat-out missed the correct call, something major league umpires tend to do quite a bit.
- The problem with umpires is that they exist in the first place. I'm not advocating to burn any of them at the stake -- because I'm surely not qualified to cast any stones at people making errors in judgement, even if it is at the expense of the Rangers -- but this is where we are in 2014. It's taken until this season, 2014 (seriously), for MLB to leave the dinosaur era and adobt expanded instant replay. But, even at that, managers are challenging safe/out calls on stolen base attempts in the first inning, when the spirit of the replay should be reserved for high-leverage situations, not totally unlike the one above with two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning of a tied game. Since it was already tied, it didn't cost the Rangers a win, but that the outcome had to be put in the hands of the umpires -- who often prove to be incapable of making accurate calls in high-leverage moments -- is a failure on Texas's part.
- For starters, there were two outs. When Adrian Beltre collected the ball he shouldn't have worried about the runner approaching 3rd. The standard play is to just whip it to Mitch Moreland for the final out, which is the play Beltre makes 98 out of 100 times. I can't be mad at Adrian's imagination while he's on the field, but he chose to get unnecessarily cute at the wrong time on Tuesday and it placed the Rangers at the mercy of an umpire's decision.
- You can't replay an entire game based on "what ifs," but the Rangers blew two prime opportunities to score runs, and it left them vulnerable in the 9th inning when the lead was the slimmest of margins. In the 4th inning, with nobody out and Alex Rios at 2nd base, Ron Washington asked for Chris Gimenez (.429/.455/.524, 172 wRC+ in SSS) to bunt with the count 0-0, 0-1 and 0-2. Gimenez struck out, and Rios didn't score in the inning. Now, in a tie game, in the 4th, a bunt is generally pointless, but particularly for Gimenez, who is basically having the best week of his life at the plate. Later on in the game, Chris knocked a two-out single to center to give the Rangers the 3-2 lead. As for the bunt call, it was one of Wash's more Ron Washington decisions of 2014, but they happen so often that it's hard to keep track.
- In the top of the 9th, Alex Rios tripled off Glen Perkins to lead the inning, and the 6-7-8 hitters behind Rios went: G6, G6, F8, leaving him stranded. In positive news, Alex is 16 for his last 31 to bump his triple slash line on the season up to .330/.361/.498 (129 wRC+), so that's good.
- Lastly, Joakim Soria had an uncharacteristic 9th inning. After getting the first out, he allowed a double that probably would have been a home run at just about any other ballpark, then struck out Josh Willingham. In his eight prior save chances, Soria posted 8 perfect innings -- 24 up, 24 down -- with 7 strikeouts. On the year he has an elite 32.4% strikeout rate and 4.4% walk rate. But on Tuesday, he gave up a double, a single, a walk (IBB), and two fluky infield plays that inevitably cost the Rangers the game.
- The way the Rangers lost is especially frustrating, but let's not pretend like this was a clean game that they deserved to win. They had their chances to create some distance, and whether it be due to poor BABIP luck or an even worse managerial decision to have a hitter bunt with two strikes in the early-middle innings of a tied baseball game, or Adrian Beltre's poor choice, or Soria's bad outing... the Rangers failed as a team on Tuesday.
- The Rangers are still 4-2 on their current 11-game road trip, and an even 26-26 on the season. In spite of the loss, they've been playing well of late, particularly on offense, as they've scored 57 runs in their last 8 contests.
- Oh, tonight Joe Saunders is pitching. Woo hoo!