CACTUS FEVER / Sat-Feb-29

Chicago White Sox 6 at Texas Rangers 7 … Surprise Stadium, Surprise … Temp: 72, Sunny

Swihart Swat Sends’em Home

The Rangers’ Blake Swihart snapped a 6-6 tie with gusto, depositing Bryan Mitchell’s first pitch of the bottom of the ninth onto the grass beyond, a.k.a. spring training lingo for the cheap seats. It was the fifth long ball for both teams in a homer-happy slugfest, with the Rangers prevailing 7-6. Mitchell (0-1) took the loss while the Rangers Ian Gibaut (1-0) pitched a scoreless top of the ninth to pick up the win.

The Rangers opened the scoring in the home half of the first when a Todd Frazier sac fly plated Shin-Soo Choo, on board after singling. The Chisox Eloy Jiminez, he of 31 jacks last year, launched one in the top of the 2nd over the 359′ sign in right. The blast scored Daniel Palka, who’d singled to open the inning, and briefly put the Chisox up 2-1. In the bottom of the 2nd, Rangers catcher Nick Ciuffo doubled home Rougned Odor who’d walked leading off the inning, to tie the game at 2.

Luis Roberts’ solo shot — a clothesline drive  — over the yellow Dickey’s sign in center  field in the top of the fourth put the Chisox on top 3-2 and that’s the way it stayed until the bottom of the seventh. Chisox pitchers had been sailing along, with Tanner Banks, Adalberto Mejia, Carson Fulmer and Tyler Johnson retiring 12 straight Texas batters before 6’5” Ronald Guzman hit one on the screws, lining it out of the park to dead-center. After Blake Swihart popped out to third, Eli White whalloped one over the left field wall to the top of the grass, giving the Rangers a 4-3 lead.

That got the Chisox woke. Ramon Torres and Andrew Vaughn opened the top of the eighth with singles and following a Zach Collins strike out, Jacob Brugman basically broke the baseball. The blow was a prodigious, rain-making blast that fell just short of the white tent 40 feet beyond the right field fence (379 ft). It landed about 10 feet before the bar. I pegged it at about 420 feet. Chisox up 6-4.

The Rangers had runs to rope. They corralled the two they needed quickly. Adolis Garcia singled to open the bottom of the eighth and scored two batters later when Leody Taveras doubled him home. Following a Nick Solak strikeout, Andy Ibanez hit a clutch, two-out RBI-single, driving home Garcia and tying the game at 6, setting the stage for Swihart’s bottom of the ninth heroics. 

Bunts, Bits & Bites … The win evened Texas’ Cactus mark at 4-4 while the loss dropped the Chisox to 4-3. The Rangers outhit the Chisox 10-9. The two teams played error-free ball. One humorous highlight had Ibanez in the seventh, launching a towering fly ball to left field where the Chisox Jiminez eyed it and began loping in underneath it. He came in a little hot, stopped, slipped and went down in a jumbled heap. Did I say towering? Every fan waited for the ball to land beside him. Except Jiminez had time to get back up and make the catch. Chalk one up for his concentration. … Yoan Moncada got off the schnide, going 2 for 3 to raise his Cactus average to .182. … All five dingers today were the first homers of the spring for all hitters. … Guzman bears a striking resemblance to former Rangers slugger Juan Gonzalez (1989-2004: 434 HR). The strapping 25-year-old looks like the real deal. … What kind of Odor will the Rangers have this year? With a robust 30 HRs and sub-Mendoza .205 BA from 2019, will Rougned continue to swing for the fences at the expense of his BA? He and new teammate Todd Frazier (2019: 21 HR, .251 BA) may commiserate on that. The .251 is a much-needed improvement for Frazier, as from 2016 thru 2018, Frazier hit 85 HR but his average never crawled above .225 (2016). … Drink of choice: Coors Light / Sprite shandy. Sat in Section 112: Second row behind Rangers dugout. … On the menu: $9.00 Jumbo dog. It was a buck-fifty more than Mesa, but unlike Mesa, the bun extended the entire dog. So the extra bread was indeed for extra bread.

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