ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- When Texas Rangers closer Neftali Feliz struck out Tampa Bay Rays pinch-hitter Matt Joyce to end Game 1 of the ALDS, the Rangers in the dugout didn't hop over the railing to get onto the field. The outfielders didn't sprint in to slap high-fives. In fact, the whole team casually strolled to the infield for a subdued gathering of congratulations as if it were a Sunday afternoon victory in June.
Ho-hum, Game 1 was in the books for a Rangers team with little playoff experience. The ending of the game -- although it had its moments with an initially wild Feliz -- matched the rest of the game as the Rays, mostly intact from a 2008 World Series run, committed two errors and played more like a team stricken with postseason nerves.
"There were really weren't many nerves," Rangers third baseman Michael Young said, who played in his first career post-season game in 10 seasons with the club. "I think there was just the natural stuff, wanting to get out there and kind of get going. It's one thing to be nervous; it's one thing to be anxious. There's was no anxiety. It was pretty much exactly what I expected: Wanting to get out there, guys in the locker room having some fun beforehand and wanting to just go out and play."
Josh Hamilton, also playing in his first post-season, said he was ready to go.
"I was jacked up before the game," Hamilton said with a chuckle. "I was excited -- in a good way. It's about bringing what we brought today, not trying to do any more than that, not trying to do any less, staying right there and having fun. Doing the claw and antler signs. It's all good."
Both starting pitchers found trouble in the first inning. David Price got out of a two-on, two-out jam in the top of the first and Cliff Lee did him one better by pitching his way out of a one-out, bases-loaded situation. The Rangers found momentum in escaping unscathed and then the bottom of the order roughed up Price for two runs in the top of the second.
Jeff Francoeur, the right-handed bat the Rangers acquired just more than a month ago, started in right field against the lefty Price and drove in the first run with a hard double to center and then scored on Bengie Molina's single. Francoeur said he could feel a shift in the dugout at that moment.
"End of the first and that second inning, you could tell, the dugout went from nervous, maybe a little bit tight to all of a sudden guys were clawin', the antler deal was going again and everybody was just having a lot of fun," Francoeur said. "That's what we talked about before the game is trying to get it back to acting like a regular-season game as much as you can, as soon as you can. And we were able to do that in the second inning and I think that's the reason that we rolled and did what we did."