ARLINGTON, Texas — Runs came at a premium on Sunday afternoon. As a matter of fact, only one run was scored. But it's all the Texas Rangers needed to avoid a sweep.
Nate Lowe walked the Rangers off with a two-out, bases-loaded single in the 10th inning to defeat the Baltimore Orioles by a score of 1-0. Lowe's second career walk-off hit came after a rough day at the plate, but Lowe remained focused on the only thing that mattered in the 10th inning.
"Just get the run across," Lowe said. "No matter what it took. He goes to his breaking ball a lot. If he hits you in the foot, you take it and you take the win no matter what. Getting something over the dish and getting the bat on it was the only thing that mattered."
Both starters had their way with the opposing lineups. Baltimore starter John Means struck out nine Rangers over seven innings, while Adam Plutko, Paul Fry, and César Valdez thwarted the Rangers' attempts to plate the first run of the game.
However, Kyle Gibson turned in one of his best performances as a Ranger. He shut down the Orioles lineup (and a red-hot Freddy Galvis) with eight sensational scoreless innings, giving up only four hits and no walks while striking out six batters on only 97 pitches.
Gibson is usually pretty emotionless on the mound, but he pitched with a little bit of swagger in the later innings, coming off the mound with a strut after striking out Rio Ruiz to end the seventh inning.
"That was one of those instances where I felt like I had the right pitch," Gibson said. "To me, there's times where you just know the hitter isn't going to hit it. I think any time you can show a little bit of emotion and have a little bit of confidence coming off the mound, hopefully the team can feed off that and get going."
Gibson's eight innings is the longest outing by a Rangers pitcher in Globe Life Field's short history. The only other pitcher to have an outing of at least eight innings happened just nine days ago when San Diego's Joe Musgrove threw a no-hitter.
Since his Opening Day start, Gibson has rebounded with a phenomenal streak of 21 innings pitched with a 0.43 ERA, a 0.81 WHIP, 17 strikeouts, three walks, and a .187 batting average against.
Ian Kennedy picked up where Gibson left off, dominating the Orioles in the ninth inning, striking out the side in order. Facing the extra-inning rule of a runner starting on second base, John King pitched a scoreless 10th inning with some stellar defense behind him.
Willie Calhoun took extra bases away from Ryan Mountcastle with a diving catch for the first out of the 10th inning, but Franco moved up to third base on the play. Trey Mancini followed with a pinch-hit single, but Franco had to wait at third base to make sure it would fall for a hit. Adolis García quickly gathered the ball off the hop and fired a strike to home plate to nab Franco, where Trevino took contact in stride to record the out.
"If you're scared of contact, find another position if you're a catcher," Trevino said. "Franco's a big dude. I know he didn't mean it. It's just an accidental collision at the plate. He's a big dude, but I stayed on my feet. I didn't plan on going down, I can tell you that much."
While the defensive play by García and Trevino was sensational, the play made by Calhoun proved to be just as vital in the eyes of Trevino and Chris Woodward.
"The play he made in the 10th won the game," Woodward said. "If that's a double, they're one run in with another guy at second base and nobody out. That saved the game."
Both defensive plays were sensational in their own right. And hitters like Nate Lowe believe moments like that gave the team the spark it needed to win the game.
"Believe it, yeah," Lowe said. "Any time we get some energy and some momentum going our way for a guy making a great play is something you can take up to the dish with you. To see them play as solid of defense as they played right there and get those two huge outs, I mean, that's fantastic."
The Rangers were bitten by a controversial call at third base where Charlie Culberson was called out on a tag after Eli White tried to bunt him over to lead of the bottom of the 10th inning. MLB's replay system sustained the call.
White reached first base on the play, then Calhoun earned a clutch walk before Isiah Kiner-Falefa struck out swinging. Nick Solak continued a great day at the plate with a two-out walk to load the bases before Lowe's walk-off single.
The Rangers will travel to Anaheim to begin their first divisional series of the season on Monday against the Los Angeles Angels. Kohei Arihara (1-1, 3.07 ERA) will start Monday, and go up against Angels right-hander Dylan Bundy (0-1, 3.32 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 8:38 CT.