Fair or foul?: Rangers let pop-up drop so Mike Minor could reach 200 strikeouts

The Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers played a meaningless baseball game on Thursday.

Both sides were long eliminated from the playoffs, leaving Thursday’s action as mere fodder for diehards and casual entertainment for fans in the stands playing hooky from work.

But for Rangers starter Mike Minor, there were personal stakes at play — none financial, but a source of pride with the milestone of 200 strikeouts on the season in sight.

Controversy in the ninth

Minor entered the day having tallied 191 strikeouts, in reasonable striking distance of the mark during his last start of the season.

The 200-strikeout goal was clearly top of mind, as Minor remained in the game in the ninth inning with his tally sitting at 199.

With one out and two chances remaining to reach 200, Minor induced a pop-up from Red Sox shortstop Chris Owings. The ball fell toward the ground in foul territory between first base and home plate.

Texas first baseman Ronald Guzman charged the ball, apparently ready to secure the second out of the inning. But at the last second he pulled back his glove in an obvious effort to let the ball drop.

The droning minutiae over "playing the game the right way" found a new target as Mike Minor approached 200 strikeouts. (Reuters)

Minor leaves game with one out remaining

Minor proceeded to strike out Owings to secure the milestone. He immediately left the game with two outs in the ninth inning after throwing 126 pitches.

It’s crystal clear what was at play here.

Cora: Happy our guys play ‘the right way

Red Sox manager Alex Cora was salty about the strategy after the game, with thoughts on “playing the game the right way.”

“I’m just happy our guys are playing the game the right way,” Cora told reporters. “We’re playing hard until the end. It’s been two weeks we’ve been eliminated, but we’ve been going at it the right way.

“That’s all I ask. I don’t manage the Rangers.”

Woodward: Don’t swing at first pitches, then

On the Rangers side of things, manager Chris Woodward “didn’t love” the intentional drop, but was agitated that Red Sox batters had the gall to swing at first pitches in the eighth, an inning that lasted only three pitches.

“I didn't love the idea that we dropped the pop-up at the end,” Woodward told reporters. “But on the other side of that, they swung at three pitches in a row in the eighth inning down by two. If they have any beef with that — obviously I'm pretty sure Cora did — they chose to not try and win the game as well. They were trying to keep him from striking a guy out.”

Minor himself had a scathing response to a critical Boston sports writer.

Whatever

The one lesson here is that even when the games are meaningless, baseball will be baseball.

Even 159 games into lost seasons long lost, opposing sides will bicker over the meaningless minutiae of what constitutes “playing the game the right way.”

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