PITTSBURGH -- One day after a four-RBI performance, Hunter Pence began Wednesday’s game at PNC Park on the bench for the Rangers. Pence didn’t mind it, as he just wants to help the team win. But Rangers manager Chris Woodward knew his veteran outfielder was dying to get in the
PITTSBURGH -- One day after a four-RBI performance, Hunter Pence began Wednesday’s game at PNC Park on the bench for the Rangers. Pence didn’t mind it, as he just wants to help the team win. But Rangers manager Chris Woodward knew his veteran outfielder was dying to get in the game.
“He’s just waiting the whole time, the whole game, chomping at the bit,” Woodward said. “I can hear him pacing back and forth. We were trying to let him know, ‘Hey, I want to make sure when you hit, it’s a situation where it’s either you’re the tying or winning run.’"
That moment arrived in the eighth inning, after Danny Santana worked a walk on a full count to load the bases. On the first pitch Pence saw -- a slider from Pirates reliever Michael Feliz -- he delivered a grand slam to tie the game and give the Rangers life, igniting a 9-6 comeback win.
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Pence was looking for a front-door slider, he said, and he caught all of one for his seventh career grand slam.
“Typically, with a runner on third with two outs, you’re trying to get the ball in the air,” Pence said. “But for me, the last two days, I tried to black out [everything] other than what I’m approaching [the at-bat with]."
Pence wasn’t going to let his emotions get the best of him, though. He wanted to see the energy carry over into the ninth, and he made sure his teammates knew that.
They responded. Isiah Kiner-Falefa hit a go-ahead double with two outs in the ninth, before Rougned Odor slapped a two-run homer to help Texas split the road set in Pittsburgh.
Pence’s grand shot went an estimated 415 feet, per Statcast, but it was hard to tell, as it ricocheted high off the foul pole in left field. The blast was set up by three walks, but most importantly, a fielder’s choice that Delino DeShields legged out to prevent an inning-ending double play.
“I told him, ‘We just got four runs because you beat out a ground ball,’” Woodward said. “It’s easy to pout right there. You hit a ground ball, and obviously, Delino used his speed to keep the inning alive, and we end up tying the game improbably with two outs.”
It was the first pinch-hit grand slam for the Rangers since May 10, 2007, when Victor Diaz lifted one against the Yankees. Pence finished the two-game set with two doubles and two homers.
Miller impresses Woodward, despite just four innings
Shelby Miller only lasted four innings for the Rangers, but what he did in that short time was reassuring to Woodward and Miller himself. He threw 73 pitches, allowing two runs on four hits, including a 472-homer to Josh Bell. But he walked just one batter and struck out six to get his strikeout-to-walk ratio back near 1.
“I really feel like I only made one mistake,” Miller said. “… Definitely something to build off of.”
Miller mixed in a split-finger fastball that he thought worked fairly well, including on a ground-ball out to Gregory Polanco in the first inning.
Woodward didn’t say whether Miller was going to stay in the rotation or move to the bullpen, but what he saw made him confident that he can start bumping up Miller’s pitch count 10 to 15 pitches in the future, depending on the situation.
“I thought it was a good outing,” Woodward said. “I don’t think, in the future, that we’re not going to let him go past that. I just thought today, we’ll kind of let him get past his threshold of when he’s been declining.
“I thought his stuff played better all the way through today. I felt at the 40-50-pitch mark, it was still coming in hot. Still hitting 95 [mph], still hitting 94. I didn’t feel like his arm slot was changing, which we had noticed. That’s a really, really good sign.”
Jake Crouse is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh. Follow him on Twitter @JakeCrouseMLB.