I'm forced to hit the road for one final morning this week, and, as a consequence, I can't write nearly as much about last night's game as I want to. That sort of constraint vaguely works if you concentrate primarily on the first seven innings, because Matt Harrison turned in a very functional -- albeit somewhat odd -- two-run effort over eight innings where he punched out seven, walked only one, and allowed no homers, but also allowed more "well-hit balls" (nine) than he had in any of his 60-plus starts dating back as far back as Opening Day 2009. Yeah, I think you can understand why I classify it as a sort of odd, sort of Colby Lewis-esque kind of outing.
And, of course, the Rangers' offense did absolutely nothing over those first seven innings -- or 7.1 innings, even -- before Elvis Andrus singled and proceeded to terrorize Grant Balfour on the basepaths, which you'd like to think contributed to some degree to the three walks that followed that point. It wasn't your classic hit-'em-hard Rangers offensive rally with multiple extra-base smashes, but it was remarkably tense and captivating and emotional baseball, as Balfour fittingly demonstrated after issuing back-to-back two-out walks and being chased from the mound on a borderline stunning Nelson Cruz walk:
I'd also like to talk for a moment about the game-breaking hit, the Craig Gentry bases-clearing triple that Yoenis Cespedes thankfully misread and allowed to get over his head. It was, unsurprisingly, the biggest hit of his life from a win probability standpoint, as the triple was good for a +.560 WPA bounce in the Rangers' win expectancy, and it vaulted Gentry into a comparatively small club of Rangers hitters who produced +.500 WPA or more with two or fewer plate appearances in a single game.
The other unexpected thing about the Gentry triple, though, was that it managed to stir some relatively dormant baseball emotions inside me. I've talked before about how I've been affected by burnout to varying degrees over the last few years, and how the games just don't excite me in the same way that they used to excite me ... but last night's eighth inning felt very much like the old times of watching the late-90s Rangers on KXTX 39 and hanging on every pitch like the fate of the world hinged upon its outcome, and the Gentry triple actually evoked a raucously celebratory reaction from me.
That probably doesn't mean very much to all of you, but it meant something to me, in that it validated that my love for this thing is still there. I'll still get beaten down by the Rangers at times, and, yeah, the fandom still isn't what it used to be, and there will still be times that, try as I might, I just can't force myself into a heightened emotional state over the Rangers ... but last night further validated that the love is still there, and that's a good feeling to have.