Present, tense.

The Rangers rolled into Rogers Centre and took Game One of the series in what was, to date, the game of the year.

True on October 8.

True again, 207 days later. 

Texas 2, Toronto 1, two days into May, had moments of mid-October intensity, palpably ratcheted up because of what happened the last time the teams took the field together.

At that time, Nomar Mazara hadn’t played a baseball game in nearly a month, and was a month and a half away from getting a text letting him know he would be going to his first big league camp the next spring.

Brett Nicholas, who finished his Round Rock season with Mazara a few weeks before the Rangers-Jays ALDS, was days away from reporting to Estrellas de Oriente for what would be his first taste of the Dominican Winter League, as he was doing everything in his power to make his case for a big league chance.

No telling what A.J. Griffin, who hadn’t thrown a professional pitch in four months (and even then, hadn’t thrown many since 2013), was doing.

None of them were in Toronto for Game One, or Two, or Five.

Nobody was bigger last night than those three.  If this were the Stanley Cup playoffs, no question who the Three Stars would have been as the Rangers took the opener of this four-game set.

There was Griffin on the mound, scattering five baserunners in six innings while punching out a career-high-matching nine (over 52 starts).  Were it not for a brutal baserunning decision by a player whose greatest weapon is supposed to be his baserunning — all things considered, I’d be all for an assignment to Round Rock for Mr. DeShields, in hopes that he’d respond to it the way that Rougned Odor did when he was optioned last May 11, with Ian Desmond sliding over to center field and either Jared Hoying or James Jones coming up to give the team a fourth outfielder capable of playing center — Griffin might have earned another victory.

Those are just numbers, though, and instead the win went to Tony Barnette, his first in the big leagues, while Griffin’s win-loss held at 3-0 and his ERA ticked down to 2.32.  

Barnette, in mid-October, was getting ready for the Yakult Swallows’ Japan Central League playoff series against the hated Yomiuri Giants.

There was Nicholas at the plate and behind it, giving Texas a one-run lead with a second-inning home run, helping preserve a one-run lead with a sensational play on the back end of a crazy-great 9-2 double play in the eighth, and catching Griffin, Barnette, Sam Dyson, and Shawn Tolleson as they combined to hold Toronto’s formidable offense in check.

And there was Mazara at the plate and in the field, owning the eighth inning as he took Gavin Floyd deep to lead off the frame and gunned Michael Saunders down at home to end it.  

Slow heartbeat.

Mazara’s, that is.

Not mine.

I mentioned on Twitter last night that there are times I hate sports for making me love it so much — and that, at least as Texas took its 2-1 lead to the ninth — that wasn’t one of them.  

That was sports at its near-best.  

The American League’s Rookie of the Month for April — slightly unforeseeable as he was busy singling twice and homering in a 9-3 Express win over the Iowa Cubs on April 9 — may have just played his best baseball game yet.  In May.

Three days after the Rangers signed Mazara for a controversial $4.95 million as a 16-year-old Dominican, he was in Arlington taking batting practice with Josh Hamilton.  I was there, and I wrote this about it.

Two weeks after that, I wrote this feature on Mazara for

I’m prone, you might agree, to getting overly excited about prospects.

I wasn’t excited enough about Nomar Mazara.  

Which is not the same as being unexcitable, a really cool aspect of the Rangers’ right fielder and number two hitter’s game.

Not yet part of mine, not when the game is at its tense, intense, electrifying best, which doesn’t always line up with the relative significance of its position on the calendar.  


Jamey Newberg

Dallas attorney Jamey Newberg has been commenting on Rangers from the big club down through the entire farm system since 1998.

Scott Lucas

Scott Lucas was born in Arlington, Texas, to Richard and Becky Lucas. He lived mostly in Arlington before moving to Austin, where he graduated from The University of Texas. Scott works for Austin Valuation Consultants, Ltd., and has published several boring articles about real estate appraisal and environmental contamination. He makes a swell margarita and refuses to run longer than ten kilometres.

Eleanor Czajka

Eleanor grew up watching the AAA Mudhens in Toledo, Ohio. A loyal Ranger fan since 1979, she works "behind the scenes" at the Newberg Report.

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