ARLINGTON, Texas – Of course the Texas Rangers didn’t give Yu Darvish any run support when he was on the mound Wednesday night in the showdown of aces vs. Seattle’s Felix Hernandez.
The important thing is that they did finally come up with the runs, and has been the case so far this season, they saved the drama for the ninth inning.
Leonys Martin singled to left field with two outs in the ninth to cap a rally and give Texas a 3-2 victory over the Mariners.
The Rangers have won six games at Globe Life Park this season, and four of them have come via the walkoff. Wednesday’s improbably comeback gave Texas just its second two-game winning streak of the season and pushed it over the .500 mark for the first time since it was 2-1.
"That’s why you play nine innings," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "Those kinds of wins build character. We have a new group that we’re going out there playing with and they’re learning how to hang together and play the game until the third out is made. We pulled it off tonight."
The Mariners helped the cause too. Closer Fernando Rodney retired the first two batters before things unraveled. Kevin Kouzmanoff doubled and Mitch Moreland walked to give the Rangers hope. But Donnie Murphy hit a routine grounder to second that Brad Miller bobbled and threw high to second, allowing Moreland to be safe and load the bases instead of ending the game.
That was the beginning of the end as Rodney uncorked a wild pitch to tie the game and then Martin delivered his third career walkoff hit.
"I was looking for a fastball," said Martin, who scored the first Texas run after leading off the eighth with a triple off Hernandez. "He (Rodney) threw me two pitches. The first one cut a little bit, the second one sank a little bit. Then he threw me a straight fastball and I was looking for something high a little bit. He threw the pitch and I hit. It’s an unbelievable feeling. An unbelievable feeling. Finally, we win the game."
The Rangers knew they weren’t out of the game despite getting down early.
"When you play a certain number of these games, you realize that you’ve been there before and it gives you a little bit of confidence when those situations come," said Moreland. "Everybody would like to win by four or five runs every night, but it’s not always going to happen like that. It just shows that we’re not going to give up. We’re going to fight to the end, and that’s a great sign, especially this early in the season."
It didn’t look like that was going to be the case as Darvish was unable to match the scoreless innings being put up by Hernandez. He bobbled a little in the second and Seattle capitalized with two runs.
Two runs wouldn’t seem like much but the Rangers have scored to struggle and those were the only runs in the game until the eighth inning.
The good news for Texas was that Darvish didn’t let the second slow him down as ended up pitching seven innings, allowing just those two runs and striking out eight. He retired 11 of the final 12 batters he faced, including the final two after he cut open his left thumb again on a curveball to Miller.
""I had to have really good communication with (catcher Robinson) Chirinos during the game," Darvish said. "We both knew they were trying to hack early and he was calling a lot of fastballs and sliders and so we talked and I told him I have other pitches as well and after that we were able to get on the same page and throw a lot of effective breaking balls for the first pitch."
The good news for the Rangers was that Hernandez started to tire late and was pulled after Martin’s leadoff triple to start the eighth despite throwing a season-low 96 pitches. That gave Texas life and it cut the lead in half on a Michael Choice sacrifice fly.
Jason Frasor and Pedro Figueroa followed up Darvish with scoreless innings to set up the ninth inning drama.
"I wish it were that simple that it was karma and you can pull that type of stuff off," Washington said. "You’ve got to make it happen and tonight we made it happen."
They did so in what’s become typical 2014 Texas Rangers fashion.