ARLINGTON -- The Rangers easily could have been deflated on Sunday afternoon after taking a 3-2 lead into the ninth inning and letting it slip away. They trailed by one, 4-3, going into the bottom of the 10th, and Cardinals reliever Jordan Hicks was pumping fastballs across the plate at over 100 mph.
But the Rangers weren’t ready to go away so easily.
“We never give up,” outfielder Nomar Mazara said. “We were only down by one run. They still have to get us out. One more inning to go.”
What an inning it was. Texas scored two runs in the 10th against Hicks and right-handed reliever Carlos Martinez to pull out a 5-4 victory over St. Louis at Globe Life Park. The Rangers ended up taking two out of three from the Cards with their first extra-innings win in four such games this season.
“That was an amazing team win,” starter Drew Smyly said. “Great team win. Our bullpen was outstanding the whole game. The offense kept battling; they have really good pitchers on their side. Good series win. That’s a good team over there -- to take two out of three from them, that’s good.”
The hero of this game should have been utility player Danny Santana. He suffered a bruised right ankle after getting hit by a pitch on Saturday and he did not start Sunday’s finale. But Santana was available to come off the bench as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the eighth, and he gave the Rangers a lead with a home run off left-hander Andrew Miller.
But the Cardinals tied it in the ninth on Dexter Fowler’s home run off Chris Martin and went ahead in the 10th against reliever Jeanmar Gomez. That left it for Hicks, who came into the game with a 1.84 ERA, a 0.89 WHIP and 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings.
Rougned Odor started the rally with a leadoff single to right and Santana worked a full-count walk. That brought up catcher Jeff Mathis, but Texas manager Chris Woodward pinch-hit with Willie Calhoun.
Calhoun, who was called up Wednesday from Triple-A Nashville, had to deal with the late-afternoon shadows covering home plate, making it even tougher to face Hicks. But Calhoun lined a 2-2 slider into right field for a single that scored Odor and moved Santana to third.
“I just went up there and choked up,” Calhoun said. “I knew he was throwing hard. I just tried to put the barrel on the ball. … The biggest thing for me is not thinking too far ahead or trying to do too much -- just try to do damage on every pitch.”
Calhoun is now 10-for-21 with two home runs and seven RBIs in the Majors this season.
“I can’t put into words how proud I am of him,” Woodward said. “It’s pretty special. Regardless of what happens going forward, he’s done everything, with a ton of results, to belong here. I can’t promise a player anything, but what he is doing right now is pretty special. He has had an impact in every game.”
After Calhoun’s single, the Cards brought in Martinez and intentionally walked Shin-Soo Choo to load the bases. Logan Forsythe struck out, but Mazara hit a fly ball to left-center field and Santana raced home ahead of Harrison Bader’s throw to score the winning run.
“You have a guy like that at third base, it makes it easier on you,” Mazara said. “Just put the ball anywhere on the field. That guy in center has a pretty good arm, [but] a runner like [Santana] at third base makes it tough. Odor getting on base and Santana having that good at-bat, and Willie, that guy is always ready. It’s impressive what he is doing for the team. [Hicks] was throwing 100-101 -- for us to have good bats and battle and battle, something was going to happen.”