Defense saves Rangers late in Game 1 victory over Orioles
(AP photo/Andrew Harnik)
Postseason games aren’t supposed to be as one-sided the Rangers made things seem in the American League wild-card round, when they swept two games by a combined 10 runs.
The opener of the AL Division Series on Saturday was more like it — tight throughout.
Close games weren’t a good thing for the Rangers this season, and on Saturday it sure seemed like the bullpen that had more blown saves than successful saves was trying to give away another in Game 1 against the Orioles.
Instead, the relievers found a way.
Josh Jung homered, Evan Carter delivered an RBI double and Josh Sborz, Adolis Chapman and Jose Leclerc managed a scoreless inning apiece as the Rangers held on for a 3-2 victory at Camden Yards.
The relievers needed help from the defense, especially Chapman in the eighth and Leclerc in the ninth. Jung, the rookie third baseman, and All-Star catcher Johan Heim obliged.
“I got a little bumpy there, but they found a way to get through it,” manager Bruce Bochy said.
The victory gives the Rangers home-field advantage in the best-of-5 series. Game 2 is scheduled for 3:07 p.m. Sunday, and left-hander Jordan Montgomery will start for the Rangers.
The Rangers picked lefty Andrew Heaney to start Game 1, even though he would be unable to give them five innings, because the Orioles feature some big left-handed bats and because it’s more difficult to hit home runs to left field.
“You’ve got to get creative, and it worked out well today,” Bochy said.
Heaney opened with three scoreless innings and took a 2-0 lead to the mound in the fourth after Carter’s double and an RBI single by Heim, but the Orioles got one back with one out in the inning and Dane Dunning replace Heaney for the final out.
Jung homered in the sixth, but so did Anthony Santander for Orioles. Will Smith was summoned to get Gunnar Henderson to end that inning with the Rangers up 3-2.
Sborz entered for the seventh, and opened with seven straight balls. He recovered, though, to toss a scoreless inning.
Chapman was given the eighth, and thinks looked bleak after he walked the first two Orioles. But Santander hit a bouncer to Jung’s left that he turned into a critical double play. Chapman closed the inning with a strikeout of Ryan Mountcastle.
“To take that momentum away was huge,” Jung said. “My defense, I just try to take some hits away.”
Leclerc, who has cemented his place as the Rangers’ closer, gave up a single to Henderson to start the ninth. Henderson tried to steal second base to get into scoring position with not outs, but Heim delivered a perfect throw to Corey Seager for an out that took the wind out of the sellout crowd.
“That was awesome,” Jung said. “It was on a changeup, too. He put it right where he needed it.”
And where Leclerc needed it. And where the Rangers needed to help them win Game 1.
“It’s always good to get the first one,” Bochy said.
Jeff Wilson, email@example.com