ARLINGTON, Texas — The Rangers saved their best for last in Thursday’s win over Oakland.
Two perfect relay throws by center fielder Craig Gentry and shortstop Elvis Andrus made for an easy tag for catcher A.J. Pierzynski at home plate to end the game.
The 4-3 win wasn’t always a thing a beauty as it dragged out for three hours and 39 minutes, but the Rangers found perfection at the end.
With Josh Donaldson on first, Seth Smith hit a sinking liner to center field. Craig Gentry, a ninth-inning defensive replacement, came in to field the ball, then pulled up to let it drop.
As Donaldson rounded second base, the ball skipped sideways off Gentry’s torso. A lot Rangers’ fans hearts skipped, too.
“It’s a tough play because it’s a low line drive,” Gentry said. “Off the bat, you don’t know how far it’s going to carry and you don’t want to just lay back on it and wonder afterwards, ‘Could I have caught that?’ You definitely want to not let it get by you. And if you’re not going to catch it, try to block it.”
Things happened so quickly, Gentry couldn’t remember if the ball took a funny hop. He said the ball glanced off his side and he had to retrieve it quickly to throw it to Andrus, who was standing at second base.
“He hit Elvis perfectly,” manager Ron Washington said. “If he didn’t hit Elvis with the relay perfectly, I don’t think we would have been able to pull that play off.”
On that, Gentry had a slight disagreement with his manager.
“I don’t know if that play happens if Elvis doesn’t make the perfect throw,” Gentry said. “I mean, he threw it right where A.J. just had to basically catch it and tag him. He made that play right there.”
Andrus’ ability to wheel and pinpoint a throw home was the middle cog in a play that had a lot of moving parts.
“As soon as I turned, I got my target and when I’m feeling good, I’m really accurate throwing the ball. I’m not going to think about it, I’m just going to release the ball and hope it’s a good throw,” Andrus said.
“Especially in a play at the plate, it’s going to be a close throw. So I don’t want to throw it high or low, I just want to make a throw close to the glove so he can make something happen.”
That’s exactly what happened as Pierzynski, standing slightly to the third base side of the plate, had Donaldson blacked off and barely had to bend to make the tag.
“He [Andrus] deserves the credit for the throw the he made,” Pierzynski said. “He put it in the one place he could put it where I could block the plate. He whirled and threw it perfectly, there’s no other way to put it. He put it in the perfect position and gave me an easy tag.”
What Andrus and Gentry didn’t know is that Donaldson ran through a stop sign in an attempt to score.
Third base coach Mike Gallego initially waved Donaldson home. But as Donaldson neared third, Gallego gave him the stop sign.
Donaldson told reporters that as soon as he saw the ball glance off Gentry, he made his mind up to try to score.
“[Third baseman Adrian] Beltre told me that their third base coach [tried to] stop him,” Andrus said. “So I was really glad that he actually kept going. It happened to be the way we win the game and this series, so you’ve got to always take the good things.”