Walk-off wild pitch gives Rangers an emotional win

July 18th, 2023

ARLINGTON -- When  led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a double into the left-center-field gap, it seemed like the Rangers were primed for a walk-off victory over the American League East-leading Rays. 

They got it, but not as expected. 

Instead of a thrilling walk-off homer or a big hit from the middle of the order, Texas won on a walk-off wild pitch. Pete Fairbanks’ 100 mph four-seamer hit the backstop, and pinch-runner Josh H. Smith sprinted home as the Rangers defeated the Rays, 3-2, on Monday night at Globe Life Field to open the three-game set.

“It was very, very emotional for us,” said , who hit a game-tying two-run homer in the sixth. “That was a key moment in the game, two strikes, two outs. We get that [wild pitch], we get the win, and it’s something that's very emotional for everyone and makes us very happy.”

This was the Rangers’ third walk-off victory of the season, but their first on a wild pitch since March 31, 2019, against the Cubs, when Joey Gallo scored the winning run. 

“Jung, off a tough pitcher, that’s a good at-bat to get the double there, and I decided to put Smitty out there because he runs really well,” said Rangers manager Bruce Bochy. “If it’s going to be a base, it could be the difference in those two between their speed. You're hoping for a base hit, but anything can happen at that point, so a big win for us. 

“It was tough, tough sledding there for a while. Their guys were just throwing so well. It takes your guys to keep you in a ballgame, and you never know what's going to happen.”

Before the wild pitch walk-off, it was a pitchers’ duel all night in Arlington.

Rays starter Shane McClanahan faced the minimum through five innings. During that time, the Rangers had one hit, a Marcus Semien leadoff single in the first that was erased by a double play. Texas went 0-for-14 against McClanahan between Semien’s single and Robbie Grossman’s leadoff single in the sixth inning, which set up Duran’s game-tying homer.

The Rangers had more strikeouts (six) than walks and hits combined (four) against McClanahan, but they made sure every hit counted in the end. 

 "Wow, I mean, you look at all his weapons, the guy pumps 98 out there, and it's moving,” Bochy said of McClanahan. “He's got great secondary pitches, the slider, the curve and a tremendous changeup. We knew we had our hands full, and we just had to go out there and compete. The guys did a great job of it tonight."

Texas starter  said he doesn’t usually know whom he’s facing before he gets to the ballpark on a start day. But he realized well before he showed up at Globe Life Field how difficult of a matchup it would be on both sides.

Dunning rose to the occasion against the American League All-Star.

The right-hander allowed one run in each of the first two innings -- including a solo shot from Josh Lowe, Nathaniel’s little brother,  in the second -- but quickly settled in, capping his first outing of the second half with five scoreless innings to give the Rangers’ offense plenty of time to make up the two-run deficit. 

“We saw really good pitching on both sides,” Bochy said. “McClanahan, we all know how good he is. When you look at the elite pitchers in the game, he's right there. I've said this, when you face somebody like that, you need your guy to step up, and Dane did that. He made a couple of mistakes there, but he settled down and got in a good groove and gave us seven solid innings and gave us a chance.”

For a team that has consistently sat at the top of the AL West this season and has one of the best offenses in baseball, the Rangers’ bats have often struggled late in games.

That theme has flipped early in the second half, as the win over the Rays gave Texas its fourth straight victory coming out of the All-Star break and third comeback win in those four games.

“Yeah, these are some of the games that I thought we were missing in the first half,” Bochy said. “These guys in this first homestand here after the [All-Star break], I mean, they’ve just done a great job of just keeping that focus and fighting hard for nine innings.”