Rangers survive ninth-inning downpour in Arlington
Closer Nathan able to notch 43rd save in rainy conditions against Angels
ARLINGTON -- Rangers players and manager Ron Washington draped towels over their heads during the ninth inning when Mother Nature paid a visit to Rangers Ballpark on Saturday.
It was pouring rain for a third time in the game just as Joe Nathan stepped on the mound. The 38,635 fans still in their seats needed ponchos and umbrellas to watch Nathan record his 43rd save during the 7-4 win against the Angels in a surreal, yet dangerous, moment with the club's American League Wild Card hopes on the line.
"It was like the movie 'The Fan,'" said catcher A.J. Pierzynski. "It was raining about as hard as I've seen it."
The Rangers are tied for the second Wild Card after their win and the Rays' loss to the Blue Jays. Both Texas and Tampa Bay enter Sunday one game behind Cleveland.
Nathan needed to get pinch-hitter Josh Hamilton out to get everyone out of the rain after striking out Andrew Romine and forcing Erick Aybar to ground out to second, but the former Ranger slid into second after hitting a line drive to right field to extend the inning. By that time, puddles began to form in the corners of the infield, and the brim of Nathan's hat dripped with water. The Rangers' closer jumped ahead 0-2 on Mike Trout, but everyone remained stuck in the rain when Nathan threw four of his next five pitches for balls to walk Trout and bring the potential tying run to the plate.
"I've never thrown in anything like that before, that's for sure," Nathan said. "I was trying to keep it out of my head. To say it was coming down is an understatement. I was trying to throw strikes and my hand was soaked. No breaking balls. Breaking balls were out the window. I was just trying to throw strikes. I was trying to find a dry spot, and by dry spot, I mean wet rather than soaking wet."
Nathan didn't need a breaking ball to get Howie Kendrick to strike out swinging on three fastballs to end the game. The grounds crew quickly barged out of the left-field gate to prepare the tarp as the Rangers celebrated their sixth straight win. Within minutes after Nathan's final pitch, the crowd was gone, the players ran off the field and the tarp was securely fastened over the infield.
"I wish I would have had a surfboard," Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "I couldn't see anything. I was praying they didn't hit a fly ball, because nobody could see it. Thank God we had the right guy on the mound. Joe Nathan is tremendous."
The small puddles quickly became lakes in the infield once Nathan finally recorded the third out. Home-plate umpire Scott Barry allowed them to play through without calling for the tarp, although the infield conditions were not good. The strikeout was the best possible outcome in the scenario to avoid an injury, and Nathan got it done.
"I was thinking, 'Jeez, we have to stop this game,'" Washington said. "If the ball was hit to one of those guys in the infield, I couldn't see them fielding it or throwing it across the infield. If Kendrick had put that ball in play, got a base hit or we couldn't make a play, I would have complained, we would have had to stop it and we would have had to wait to finish that inning."
Saturday's game started at 11:05 a.m. CT, nearly eight hours before its originally scheduled first pitch time, due to inclement weather expected that night. The Rangers will get a chance to relax before Sunday's regular-season finale.
"If we would've played it any later, we wouldn't have been able to start on time," Pierzynski said. "It worked out. Whoever made the decision made the right decision. It didn't seem like it when it was raining in like the first or second inning, but it ended up working out and we got a win.
"It's good to have our game out of the way so we can relax, watch some football and get ready for tomorrow."
Master Tesfatsion is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.