Yu Darvish vs. Matt Moore.
Darvish, whose team has been so offensively unsupportive lately, against Moore, who had thrown 5.1 scoreless innings and another 10 innings of one-run ball against Texas in his brief career and who boasted a 1.64 ERA in his eight starts since July 1st, and whose own Rays teammates haven’t been scoring lots of runs themselves of late.
You probably expected last night to go something like the way Darvish-Gerrit Cole (1-0 loss) and Darvish-Bartolo Colon (1-0 loss) went the last two times the Rangers ace took the mound.
And then a combined 183 pitches were thrown in the first four innings.
The game saw 35 batters, nearly two per half-inning, reach base against the right-handed and left-handed beasts and six relievers.
Even if you somehow expected the beleaguered Texas and Tampa Bay offenses to regularly put Darvish and Moore in pressure situations, the thought of the Rangers hitting three (and nearly four) home runs in the span of four batters probably didn’t figure into your thinking.
You probably didn’t expect the number nine hitter (Mitch Moreland), who was the one left-handed hitter in the lineup against Moore, to go off all night, laying off pitches outside the zone and barreling up on the ones he could do something with, or the fourth outfielder mired in a 1-for-18 stupor (Craig Gentry) to thrown down a triple, three singles, and three stolen bases, or the backup catcher (Geovany Soto) to go deep and, more importantly, to cut down two would-be basestealers with Darvish on the ropes in the second inning.
Or the demoted southpaw reliever (Robbie Ross), sporting a 6.08 ERA (not counting the 8 of 20 inherited runners he allowed to score) and .330/.380/.510 opponents’ slash over the last three months, to come in and shove like 2012 Robbie Ross with two innings of perfect baseball, starting with three straight swinging strikeouts in the sixth.
Darvish, grinding and battling and surviving without fastball command and without his best stuff and posting just the 26th highest Game Score of his 30 starts this season, got all of nine swinging strikes in five frames.
Ross got five swinging strikes in his first inning of work.
Getting that Robbie Ross back would mean not only another weapon to trust in the pen, but also a chance to ease the load, even if slightly, on the critically important Neal Cotts as Texas heads into these last 10 critically important games.
It was adrenalizing to see Texas take it to the other guys on the bases, reminiscent of August as well as of the 2010 American League Division Series that saw the Rangers win three times at Tropicana Field to advance in the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
I don’t know if Texas will be able to hold on these next 10 days to advance to 162+ again, or if it might mean another trip to the Trop for Game 163, but there were all kinds of good signs last night giving us a glimpse of what this team can be, again, as it tries to extend its season and build some momentum in the process.
Even if those good signs last night didn’t include the one thing we all expected to see.