ARLINGTON, Texas —
Houston Astros utility player Jake Elmore arrived at Rangers Ballpark just hoping to play Monday night.
Little did the former Wallace State infielder know sitting on the bench early in the game that he would both catch and pitch in the major leagues for the first time.
But that's what can happen in lopsided games like the Astros' 16-5 loss to the AL West-leading Texas Rangers, who had an 11-run third that was the highest-scoring inning in the majors this season.
Elmore was the only one of the four Houston pitchers who had a scoreless outing, a 1-2-3 eighth on 11 pitches. He returned to the dugout to a gauntlet of high-fives from his teammates.
"It was fun," Elmore said. "When any player plays out of position you're glad to see him do well."
The outcome was not in doubt after the big inning by Texas made it 13-1.
An inning later, Elmore was behind the plate for Carlos Corporan, who had been hit by a foul ball. Jason Castro, the other catcher, was in the game already as the designated hitter.
"They told me early in the game that I was going to pitch because the game was out of hand. I was expecting that," Elmore said. "But out of nowhere Corporan got hurt. I had told them I could catch like two weeks ago."
Elmore said he had never done both in the same game at any level — until Monday, when he became the 14th player to pitch and catch in a major league game.
"It was cool. It's impressive for a guy like him to do that. It also saves the pen," Astros starter Lucas Harrell said. "Having a guy like that on your team is really special."
Elmore had pitched four times in the minor leagues. He also caught in one game for Double-A Mobile. Elmore caught in high school, but told college recruiters he wanted to be an infielder, the position he played at Wallace State, then at Arizona State and the minors.
“He’s the type of guy that can just about play any place on the field, the perfect example of a utility player. He’ll do anything they ask him to do,” said longtime Lion coach Randy Putman, who never personally called on Elmore to catch or pitch throughout the shortstop’s two-year career in Hanceville. “To catch and pitch in the same game and be the 14th player to ever do that, that’s really amazing.”
Elmore and Putman managed to connect for an entertaining conversation about the feat on Tuesday afternoon.
The Wallace State coach said his favorite part of the ordeal was the expression on Elmore’s face as he walked off the mound “like there was nothing to it.” To Putman, it was pretty obvious the former Lion thoroughly enjoyed the historic experience, which was capped off by a single and run in two at-bats.
“He got a big kick out of it,” the Cullman County Sports Hall of Fame coach said. “He told me now he can compare himself to Nolan Ryan. They both pitched in the big leagues.”
Elmore said he threw mostly two-seam fastballs, clocked no higher than 82 mph, one slow curve and two changeups, both to retire Jurickson Profar.
The third out was Rangers left fielder David Murphy, who himself pitched a scoreless inning this season.
"He had a little sink on his fastball," Murphy said. "He stayed below hitting speed and had fun."
Elmore touted a .428 batting average and racked up seven home runs, 93 RBIs, 111 runs and 48 stolen bases while with Wallace State. During the Lions’ 2006 trip to the NJCAA World Series, where the team finished fourth, Elmore batted a robust .526 and was awarded “Big Stick” honors.
This past weekend, Elmore went 0-for-2 in the Astros’ matchup against former Wallace State teammate Derek Holland, who has been pitching for the Texas Rangers since 2009. It marked the first time two players from the Lion baseball program ever faced each other at the major league level.
% The Times’ sports editor Rob Ketcham contributed to this report.