Three up, three down after Rangers beat Angels, Shohei Ohtani
(AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
ARLINGTON — The game changed in the Texas Rangers’ favor Thursday night in the four-run second inning, but not necessarily when everyone might be thinking it did.
It happened the at-bat before one Jonah Heim swing gave the Rangers a lead they would never relinquish.
Willie Calhoun was up against Angels ace Shohei Ohtani with two on and one out. Ohtani got ahead in the count 1-2, so, naturally, the split-fingered fastball was coming.
It came, twice, and each time Calhoun managed to lay off pitches that were just off the plate.
He ended up drawing a walk to load the bases.
“Willie’s takes there, there were two in a row,” manager Chris Woodward said. “It was something we had talked about, if we could just lay off that split. He ends up walking, and that set up Jonah’s big hit right there. If Willie doesn’t do that, that whole inning is totally different.”
The Rangers pinned six runs on Ohtani in 3 2/3 innings with an approach of swinging early in counts and by putting pressure on Ohtani.
“It’s huge we can do that, especially against an elite guy like that,” Woodward said.
In a game with many ups and not that many downs, here’s three up and three down from a 10-5 Rangers victory.
Jonah Heim: Duh. The backup catcher delivered his first career grand slam in the second inning against Ohtani en route to a career-high five RBIs. The slam was the first allowed by Ohtani in his MLB career and the first home run Ohtani has allowed on his splitter.
The liner into the right-field seats on an 0-2 pitch erased a 2-0 deficit.
“I was a little jacked up my first two swings,” Heim said. “I was just trying to keep the line moving.”
Heim was also involved in a key play in the fourth inning after he had driven in a run on an opposite-field single. The second-base umpire called Heim out on a pickoff attempt, but the replay showed he was safe. The Rangers challenged, the call was overturned, and the inning continued with Corey Seager at the plate.
Seager connected for his first homer of the season and his first with the Rangers.
Corey Seager: Robbed of his first Rangers homer Tuesday night as Randal Grichuk leaped at the wall in front of the Rangers’ bullpen, Seager put a fourth-inning curveball from left-hander Brian Moran well into the right-field seats.
Seager has hit nine home runs at Globe Life Field, with the first eight coming in the 2020 postseason bubble. The homer Thursday came on the fourth breaking ball of the at-bat, which was one too many.
“I was aware,” Seager said.
He later added an RBI single and is batting .346 through six games.
Nathaniel Lowe: Don’t look now, but the first baseman is off to a fast start for the second straight season.
Lowe is batting .348 after going 2-for-5 with an RBI on Thursday, and he has a team-leading eight RBIs. Lowe had 14 RBIs in the Rangers’ first five games in 2021, tied for the second-most in MLB history for a player in a team’s first five games.
He continues to hit to all fields, though the fourth-inning double that scored Mitch Garver was hit down the right-field line.
Dane Dunning first innings: The right-hander allowed two runs on six hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings as his pitch count soared to 86. Too many of those pitches came in the first inning, when the Angels those two runs.
Does that sound familiar? It should. Dunning’s 2021 season was marked by first-inning woes, and they have persisted through two starts this season. Of the five runs he has allowed, four have been in the first.
“It drives me crazy and pisses me off,” Dunning said.
He said is trying to figure out something to get his mind right sooner. Woodward said that Dunning gets stronger as a game goes along, but the continued slow starts will prevent Dunning from working deeper into games.
“The one thing he has to figure out is the first couple innings,” Woodward said.
Dunning was just fine after the first, finishing with seven strikeouts.
Official scorer: The Rangers scored two runs in the fifth inning, but only one of them was earned after the official scorer stunned just about everyone by giving Angels shortstop Andrew Velazquez an error on a Garver grounder in the hole between second and third.
Velazquez dived to make the stop, then quickly stood and threw to first base. The ball one-hopped first baseman Jared Walsh, who should have made the catch to retire Garver.
It took extraordinary effort for Velazquez to keep the ball in the infield, and hits are almost always rewarded in that scenario. Instead, Velazquez was pegged with an error because his throw hit the dirt. The first baseman is rarely, if ever, given an error on a ball in the dirt.
It should have been scored a hit, and I bet Garver, who was denied a hit and an RBI, would agree.
Rangers team store: The Easter Bunny is going to come hopping into the Wilson household Sunday morning. In an effort to help the bunny, I went to the team store to purchase a Lowe jersey for our son per his request.
There were no youth jerseys in my son’s size, no youth jerseys of any Rangers players, and it would have been $145 to get a customized jersey. The boy is getting a Fernando Tatis Jr. jersey, which I found at the MLB online store for half the price.
The Lowe jersey will have to come later in the season after the store is restocked and the bank approves my loan.
Jeff Wilson, email@example.com