Rangers top Astros in extras: All it took was a balk

The Rangers won in Houston for the first time since 2018 on Tuesday. All it took was complete madness.

Madness, you say?

Pure, unadulterated 2020 baseball madness.

Consider the kooky ways in which the Rangers scored on the way to their 6-5, 10-inning win, their first at Minute Maid Park under manager Chris Woodward:

Designated runner Scott Heineman scored the go-ahead run in the 10th inning on a balk.

The second run of the inning came to life as an error, putting Isiah Kiner-Falefa on first base. He scored all the way from first on Joey Gallo’s clutch two-out … bunt.

In all, five of the Rangers’ six runs began as free bases via walks, hit batsmen or errors. The other came on Elvis Andrus’ game-tying homer to start the ninth inning.

“A lot of demons in this ballpark,” said Woodward, who was Los Angeles’ third base coach when Houston beat the Dodgers in the 2017 World Series. “I figured that’s how it was going to be if we won a game here.”

It was pretty clear from the start how weird the night would be. Shin-Soo Choo, the game’s first hitter, was hit by a full-count pitch, swiped second base and then scored on a Kiner-Falefa dribbler back to the mound, which starter Framber Valdez promptly threw away. Kiner-Falefa went to third on a wild pitch before scoring on Nick Solak’s single.

The Rangers led 3-1 into the seventh before reliever Nick Goody allowed a two-out, three-run homer off the right field foul pole to Michael Brantley. Then came the Rangers comeback.

Andrus led off the ninth with a homer into the Crawford Boxes in left field, his first homer of the season.

In the 10th, Heineman, who had entered the game as a defensive replacement in the bottom of the ninth, was placed on second. He went to third on Choo’s ground out, then caused some good trouble. With left-hander Blake Taylor on the mound, third base coach Tony Beasley and Heineman decided to force the issue. He feinted hard down the line. Taylor bit. His front leg buckled. Heineman was awarded home.

“Those are things I like to do, but it can be frowned on up in the big leagues,” Heineman said, apparently after consulting the book of unwritten rules. “But we wanted to stir it up. Beasley called it. I was just the dummy doing it.”

After Kiner-Falefa reached on a throwing error by Carlos Correa and Jose Trevino popped out, Gallo got creative. With plenty of room on the left side due to the shift, the cleanup hitter, in a 1 for 25 slump, dropped a first pitch bunt. Catcher Martin Maldonado sprinted out to grab it in front of the mound and fired the ball over first base. Kiner-Falefa, who made a game-saving diving stop at third in the bottom of the ninth, raced around from first to score.

“I’m like 1 for 85 right now; I figured it was my best chance to get a hit,” Gallo texted. “I really just wanted to keep the line moving and get [Nick] Solak up, because he’s been swinging a hot bat.”

Said Woodward: “I was kind of hoping for Joey to hit it 80 rows deep, but he is trying to create some havoc. It worked out. I didn’t mind it.”

Whatever it takes.

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