It was a ’90s TV staple, made annoyingly worse — though we still rubbernecked — by VH1’s leaning on the most awful of that decade’s music to feature those popping bubble nuggets. The show was somewhere between guilty pleasure and irritainment, with just enough to make it more palatable than studying for Con Law II.
No Madonna or Jewel episode was any more maddening, though, than the home halves of Chicago 3, Texas 2, stippled by more lifeforce-draining pop-ups than a Lionel Richie video.
Bottom of the second, scoreless. White Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez has thrown 11 balls in the inning, and six strikes. One eight-ball sequence puts both Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo on base, and Mike Napoli’s flare single to center is close enough to being caught that Mazara is only able to advance to third.
Bases loaded, one out.
Drew Robinson, first-pitch pop-out to shortstop.
Brett Nicholas, 1–1 pop-out to shallow left.
Bottom of the third, still scoreless. Delino DeShields singles, steals second, and — after Rougned Odor fans — steals third. Gonzalez throws eight balls out of nine pitches to Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre, walking both.
Bases loaded, one out.
Mazara, 1–1 pop-out to very shallow left (so shallow that even DeShields had no chance to jump off the bag and force a throw).
Gallo, allowed to swing on 3–0, fouls one off, and then another, and then? A 3–2 pop-out to first.
Chicago plates three in the fourth, and in the Rangers’ next four inning bottoms, there are another four pop-outs. At that point, Texas is 1–10 with runners in scoring position, with 10 runners stranded.
In some ways, there’s little worse than a pop-up, an out that’s virtually never productive.
Then came the top of the eighth, and the worst pop-up of them all.
On a 2–2 pitch, Matt Bush got White Sox irritant Nicky Delmonico (who sounds like he should have been in an A-ha video) to pop up feebly to the left side of the infield. Texas had a pronounced shift on for the left-handed hitter, leaving Gallo stationed where a shortstop would normally set up, manning the entire expanse of dirt left of second.
Bush recognized that Gallo had some distance to cover if he was going to be able to intercept the Delmonico volley, and darted off the mound toward third base. (VH1 would have bubble-identified Bush at this point in the sequence as a former infielder — and Gallo as a former pitcher.) Gallo covers a lot of ground, and was drawing a bead on the ball. Bush looked at him two different times and presumably saw that, but each time he fixed his eyes back on the baseball, there was apparently no Gallo shout calling Bush off the play.
And then 425 pounds converged and collided at the point at which Delmonico’s ducksnort met Bush’s glove, and at the same instant Bush’s head met Gallo’s head and Bush’s knee met Gallo’s knee and the word “protocol” now enters this story. Both men exited the game, Gallo with a non-displaced nasal fracture and Bush with a bruised right knee, and are both questionable at best for what’s now a huge four-game series in Anaheim.
Ironically, if pinch-hitter Shin-Soo Choo had popped up with two on and nobody out in the ninth — rather than rolling into a no-outs double play — Odor’s ensuing bomb would have tied the game rather than narrowing the deficit to 3–2. No, you can’t assume Juan Minaya would have pitched Odor the same with men on first and second (one out) rather than third alone (two outs), but, well, yeah.
The Rangers are now 4–9 in games they came into with a .500 record, and that’s a little frustrating.
They popped out a lot on Sunday, often with runners in scoring position, and that’s annoying.
But that’s baseball. It was a loss that could (should?) have been a win, and every team’s season is full of those. You move on.
All those home-half pop-ups were deflating in the moment, but you wash those off and prepare for the next day.
It’s the other one, the one that led to Matt Bush and Joey Gallo crashing into each other, possibly impacting that game and definitely impacting this next series against the Angels and who knows after that, which is really troublesome, and at this point I’d probably rather see a Cyndi Lauper video than another replay of that wretched pop-up.