ARLINGTON, Texas -- Three games into the season and this Texas Rangers team is already showing some critical comeback traits.
On Wednesday, down by two runs with Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon on the mound in the ninth, the Rangers used a combination of speed and patience to pull off a second consecutive walk-off win and claim the first series of the year.
None of it would have happened without an unheralded bench player who was one of the final players to make the club’s 25-man Opening Day roster.
Jim Adduci wasn’t sure he was even going to start the season with the big club. He thought he’d done everything he could at spring training, but he knew others had as well.
“I tried not to think about it,” Adduci said after Wednesday's 4-3 win, looking like a guy who thought a lot about it, whether he was willing to admit it or not.
The Rangers kept Adduci over Kevin Kouzmanoff despite a strong spring from both. They did it for two big reasons: Adduci still has options, so he offered roster flexibility; and he was a left-handed bat with speed.
That last part came into play with the game on the line. With runners at second and third and one out and the Rangers down by a run, Rangers manager Ron Washington sent Adduci out against Papelbon, hoping he could drive one to the gap.
Instead, Adduci barely bounced one down the third-base line. It was placed perfectly.
“Whatever works, works,” Adduci said. “When I felt it off the end of the bat, I just took off.”
Adduci beat out the infield single, which scored Adrian Beltre to close the deficit to a run.
It was that “sneaky speed” Adduci says he has.
“If you saw me sprint before the game, you’d be like, ‘Nah,’” Adduci said. “It’s in-game fast.”
That speed also was on display when Leonys Martin hit the game-tying single up the middle and Adduci sprinted to third.
“I was watching where [Chase] Utley was at, and when he dove for the ball I instantly knew there was enough time for me to get over there,” Adduci said.
By getting to third base, Adduci put even more pressure on the Phillies. The winning run was sitting just 90 feet from home.
That's when Shin-Soo Choo got patient. He came up with the bases loaded and one out and fell behind 1-2, swinging at a splitter out of the zone to start his at-bat.
“I was trying to make contact, but looking for a pitch I could hit and [was sitting on a fastball],” Choo said. “He threw his best pitch at 2-2. That was the same one I missed earlier [a splitter] and I took it. That put the pressure on him.”
Choo shortened his stroke and waited to see if Papelbon would throw something in the zone. He didn’t, and Choo, who led all big league leadoff hitters in walks last season, gladly trotted to first base for the club’s first walk-off walk in 15 years.
That’s two straight nights of heroics by a Rangers club that is showing signs of jelling with so many new faces.
“Just to see how we’ve come together in the last couple of games,” said Mitch Moreland, who had two extra-base hits, including a double in the ninth. “It may not look like it from the outside. But looking at it from the inside, we’ve really come together these last couple of games and made it happen.”
That’s what a little speed and patience can do.
Now the Rangers will try to take that same act on the road through Tampa Bay and Boston.