ARLINGTON -- Do the Rangers get déjà vu? They did this weekend.
Texas rookie catcher Jonah Heim played the hero on Saturday night, crushing a walk-off homer in the 10th inning against the Mariners.
After a 1-for-3 start on Sunday, this time as the designated hitter, Heim’s walk-off magic continued as he connected for a 405-foot walk-off solo homer to propel the Rangers to a 4-3 victory over the Mariners at Globe Life Field.
“I could just tell by his demeanor on the first swing that he was not scared,” said Rangers manager Chris Woodward. “That's the one thing that kind of stands out with Jonah. He feels pretty good in the batter's box right now, and he got some nice swings up before that. To do it with two strikes again, against a pretty tough pitcher, is pretty cool. I think he had that on his mind, for sure, by the swings I was watching.”
It’s the first time the Rangers have won back-to-back games since winning four straight against the Royals and A’s at the end of June. It's also the first time Texas has won a series since that three-game sweep over Kansas City from June 25-27.
Per the Elias Sports Bureau, Heim is the first player with walk-off homers in back-to-back games since Albert Pujols with the Cardinals on June 4-5, 2011. He is also the first player in Rangers/Senators franchise history and the first MLB rookie to accomplish the feat.
The Rangers were down, 3-1, heading into the bottom of the ninth inning. Then, it was one knock after the other. Nathaniel Lowe got on base with a leadoff single. Andy Ibáñez then drove a game-tying two-run homer just over the left-field wall to set up Heim’s historic blast.
Ibáñez said that adrenaline was running through his veins as he rounded the bases, and he was confident that Heim could end the game right behind him.
Heim added that once Ibáñez hit that homer, he knew the Rangers had all the momentum. He just wanted to get on base, somehow. To hit the ball out of the yard again, he said, was icing on the cake.
“It's unbelievable what we did in the ninth there with [Lowe] getting on and Andy hitting a big-time homer, just to give me the opportunity to do it again,” Heim said. “It's unbelievable how this team fights to the end. We're just here to play hard and try to win some games. It's really fun to be a part of.”
In the first few games following the Trade Deadline, the Rangers have shown the fight on the field that Woodward had been hoping to see for weeks.
Woodward believes that in the aftermath of trading the three integral players they did in Joey Gallo, Kyle Gibson and Ian Kennedy, the guys left are able to relax and rally around one another.
“At the end of the day, nobody likes to see our family, -- Joey and Gibby and Kennedy -- leave,” Ibáñez said. “We all felt like family, but at the end of the day, we’ve got to keep going. We have to close that door and move forward. That's the mentality that we have right now.”
Woodward emphasized that things aren’t perfect, despite a positive weekend. He felt like there were opportunities to take advantage of earlier in the game to jump out ahead of Seattle. Guys have to learn to win games earlier than the final out.
But this weekend was a step in the right direction, no doubt.
“The Deadline is over and guys know they're here,” Woodward said. “They know they’re gonna play, they're gonna get opportunities. They're gonna still have to earn those opportunities, obviously. Just because you're here doesn't mean you're going to play for sure. But at the same time, it should put their mind at ease a little bit and say, ‘Hey we're gonna roll with the group we have here.’”