Much like the conclusion of last night's game, this recap has been delayed for several hours (mainly because no one should have to read the weird things I would have been saying at 3am).
How and where do I even start this thing?
Last night provided one of the strangest, most entertaining, exhausting, and rewarding baseball games I have ever watched. For those of you who stayed up and are miserable at work today, congrats to you, it was worth every second. For those of you who went to bed, congrats on having meaningful adult things to do with your life, unlike me during the summer.
I feel like this game was an entire series or a three act play, not just a Monday night series opening game. Because of that, I will break this recap into three parts.
Part One: The Calm Before the Storm
For some reason, the game started with a 25 minute delay. No rain, no thunder, no wind, no tarp. Just a 25 minute delay due to weather concerns, which, when the movie is made about the 2016 Rangers and this game is included, will serve as foreshadowing.
Things started off for the Rangers with something that we are all growing quite fond of: an Ian Desmond homer. He crushed the first pitch he saw into the right field bleachers, staking the Rangers to 1-0 lead. The bottom of the first included a confident Chi Chi, hitting his spots and getting groundball outs. Smooth sailing through one.
The next few innings featured a barrage of Yankee singles, as Chi Chi kept leaving pitches up in the zone and lost all of the confidence that he had in the first inning, eventually surrendering 5 runs on 10 hits over 5 innings (for all of you stat people, a 9.00 ER and a 2.12 WHIP is what we refer to as "ungood"). On the offensive side of things, Choo provided a boost with a clutch bases loaded, 2 out, 2 strike lined single to the left side of the infield, just out of the reach of Didi Gregorious, who was positioned close to second in an abbreviated defensive shift.
Chi Chi left the game with the Rangers trailing 5-4, concluding part one of the epic novel.
Part Two: The Lost Game of Atlantis
"One inning it started raining, and it didn't quit for four innings. We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin' rain... and big ol' fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath. Shoot, it even rained at night..."- Forrest Gump(ish)
And then the rains began. It started as a drizzle, and continued to into a downpour. Luke Jackson came on to pitch and looked good in the 6th inning, protecting a one run lead. Jackson returned for the 7th inning and promptly allowed a solo homer to Mark Teixeira which would have gone out in approximately 0 of the 29 other ballparks (it was measured at 346 feet in right center, that's a double everywhere else, maybe even a single as low and hard as he hit it).
Suddenly, the Rangers are looking at a two run deficit with the daunting bullpen threesome of Betances, Miller, and Chapman looming, and the rain streaming down the faces of those on the field matched my tears of dashed hopes that Luke Jackson would have a scoreless performance in what felt like a big outing for him.
And it rained harder. What started as a drizzle gradually developed into a full on down pour and the conclusion of the 7th inning seemed like a logical moment for the umpires to stop the game; yet, they did not, and Andrew Miller took the mound for NYY, representing the second head of the bullpen three headed monster, a group that had not blown a lead yet this season, for a team that had not lost a game while leading after 8 innings in their last 115 attempts.
The Rangers' chances looked bleaker than the weather.
Apparently, Rougned Odor did not get that memo. Rougie came to the plate with one out in the top of the 8th and promptly sent an Andrew Miller fastball through the rain and into the right field second deck, 402 feet down the line. Miller quickly retired the next two hitters, but there were signs of life. After all, this is the team that proudly never, ever quits.
As the Rangers took the field for the bottom of the 8th, somehow, it began to rain harder. At this point, the evening had made the transition from #weirdbaseball to "holy crap, I hope no one gets hurt or actually drowns on the warning track" baseball.
Tony Barnette, looking Andy Dufresne emerging from the sewage tunnel to his freedom (if abstract Shawshank Redemption references worked for Bill Simmons, maybe I should use them more often), handled the weather like a champ, slushing his way through a saturated 1.2 innings of scoreless relief with three strikeouts.
On to the top of the 9th, where the rain did not let up, but Joe Girardi did.
Aroldis Chapman took the mound, which at this point looked like the mountains of Ararat emerging from a biblical flood, and immediately had issues with control, walking Robinson Chirinos to begin the inning and going to a 3-1 count on Choo before Joe Girardi intervened. To the credit of Chapman, when the umpires asked him if he was ok, he said he was and just asked for a fresh rosin bag as he prepared to face the elements and pitch through to downpour.
However, Joe Girardi could feel the game slipping away faster than a 100 mph fastball leaving Chapman's drenched hands and walked onto the field to question the umpires, the rain delay rules, the weather radar, and the existential meaning of life, which resulted in the umpires calling for the tarp, with the tying run on first, no outs, and the Rangers' second hottest hitter at the plate with a 3-1 count.
End act two.
Part Three: The Soggy Bottom Boys
"Some people feel the rain, others just get wet"- Bob Marley
As the tarp was brought onto the field, and Girardi's wish was granted, you could see Jeff Banister's blood begin to boil as he approached the umpires to try and understand why, at this point, more than an hour after the rain had begun, after his pitcher had just completed the bottom half of the inning pitching from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and only after the tying run had reached base, that the umpires then decided to pull the tarp.
His gripe was legit, but so was Girardi's. In all honesty, the umpires let the game get out of hand well before reaching the 9th inning, but it was beyond a bad look for them to wait until one of the managers came onto the field to stop the game, giving the appearance that they were only doing it upon his request. Banister was heated, and so was the Rangers dugout, with words being exchanged at a rapid pace with the umpiring crew to the point where Banister had to escort them away from the dugout to avoid ejections (by the way, I would love to know who was the chief noise maker over there, because whatever was being said was causing Cole Hamels to be in absolute stitches laughing at the banter).
The tarp made it onto the field and the teams returned to their clubhouse, with one team determined to play out every last out, showing the constant attitude of never giving up, and the other angrily hoping that the game would be called, in which case it would not be suspended, instead reverting back to the conclusion of the 8th inning, rewarding the Yankees with a 6-5 win.
And the teams waited.
And more waiting.
And Rangers' twitter got weird, with an amazing run of Joe Girardi jokes and rain related pictures.
And the teams waited.
Finally, after 3 hours and 35 minutes, the teams were told to return to the field and the game would resume.
But, as noted by the one and only Marlins Man, the Rangers were the only team to return to the field and get loose. They were excited, smiling, and ready to continue, and the Yankees were no where to be found. The umpires walked out with both managers, with Joe Girardi pointing out issues with the field and stating how the game could not go on, while Banister stood off to the side with his arms crossed, sharing a glare of combined anger and disappointed dad with the entire crew while Girardi talked to his GM and a representative of MLB.
Joe's complaints were to no avail, and despite his best efforts, the game resumed at 2:15 am with Shin Soo Choo returning to the plate to face Kirby Yates, also known as Not Aroldis Chapman. Choo looks at a fastball for strike two. Choo looks at a fast ball for three. Backwards K. Wait.....that's not how this script is supposed to play out.
Ian Desmond to the plate, he gets a quick two strikes on him, then, as part of divine intervention on behalf of the baseball gods and all forms of karma, Yates hits Desmond in the back, and the tying run is on second. Mazara comes to the plate and the results are basically the same, two quick strikes, then boom, HBP. Bases loaded with the Hall of Famer striding to the plate.
Adrian Beltre does Adrian Beltre things; that's just how Adrian Beltre goes. Of course he gets a hit here, driving the ball to left, scoring two, and the Rangers suddenly have the lead to the delight of the sons of Fielder and Beltre, Marlins Man, and around 30 other people that remained in the stadium through the delays. Hearing the dugout erupt in a silent stadium was surreal, with the excitement among the Rangers players being a testament to how much fun this team is having and how much they enjoy playing baseball with each other. As the camera cut to the dugout, no one was having more fun over there than Chi Chi Gonzalez, who, instead of going into a shell and being frustrated with his performance, was on the top stair cheering like an excited kid. This group is special.
Before it was all said and done, the Rangers added two more on a clutch 2 out Elvis Andrus single, expanding the lead to 9-6 and continuing the summer of half price pizza.
On to the bottom of the 9th, enter Sam Dyson, add a few Yankees baserunners and a little more excitement, plus a replay at 2:47am and the Rangers have another come from behind victory, their 26th of the year, and are the first team to reach 50 wins this season following a Giants loss earlier in the day (or the day before at this point, whatever, you get what I am saying).
Fifty wins in Seventy Seven games. That sure is a lot of sequencing and cluster luck.
Rest well today, Rangers fans. Just a few hours until game two of this series. Who knows what today will bring.