The Texas Rangers went with an unorthodox gamble to help left-hander Mike Minor reach 200 strikeouts for the first time in his career, and ignited a little controversy in the process.
They let a foul popup drop on purpose during Thursday's 7-5 home win over the Boston Red Sox.
Boston's Chris Owings hit the foul between first base and home on a 1-1 pitch with one out in the ninth inning, with none on and the score 7-5. Catcher Jose Trevino and first baseman Ronald Guzman were in the vicinity and Guzman let the ball drop when he heard Minor and Trevino telling him not to catch the ball.
Rather than being left with only one more shot at his 200th strikeout, Minor had a 1-2 count on Owings. The All-Star then threw a changeup that appeared plenty high and perhaps inside, but umpire CB Bucknor called it a strike, giving Minor his milestone. Minor was then removed from the game after throwing 126 pitches and striking out nine.
"We were yelling, telling (Guzman) to drop it because there's going to be two strikes," Minor told reporters afterward. "He dropped it, and then he looked at me like 'what? why?' And then everybody started booing or whatever. I had to thank him for that, cuz they didn't understand."
Rangers manager Chris Woodward wasn't so fond of his players' decision. But he also noted that the Red Sox went down on three straight pitches in the eighth inning.
"I didn't love the idea that we dropped the popup 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 (Red Sox manager Alex) Cora did, they chose to not try and win the game as well. They were trying to keep him from striking a guy out."
Cora had very little to say when asked about the situation.
"I'm just happy our guys are playing the right way," Cora told reporters.
Woodward said he would have removed Minor no matter what Owings did in the at-bat.
The 31-year-old Minor finished the season with a 14-10 record and 3.59 ERA.
--Field Level Media