Rapid Reaction: Rays 5, Rangers 2
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Tampa Bay Rays beat the Rangers, 5-2, and took the series. It's the first time all season the Rangers have lost a series (they had won six in a row). Some thoughts on the game:
What it means: The Rangers drop to 16-6, but still have the best record in the AL. The rest of the AL West lost Sunday, so Texas remains 5 1/2 up on Oakland and Seattle and nine games ahead of the Angels.
Holland struggles: Derek Holland didn't have his best stuff and tried to battle through it. The left-hander did manage to go seven innings, but he allowed five runs on nine hits. Holland struggled to finish batters when he had two strikes and got his fastball up, especially in the three-run second inning. He had eight strikeouts, but added two walks and both of those runners scored.
Hamilton has stiff back: Josh Hamilton left Sunday's game in the third inning with a stiff back and is listed as day-to-day. Read more here. David Murphy took over for Hamilton and ended up batting in a key spot with a runner in scoring position in the fifth and was struck out by lefty David Price. Murphy struck out in all three at-bats Sunday.
Cruz missile: Nelson Cruz showed off his great arm in right field in the third inning, gunning down Ben Zobrist to end the inning. Cruz fired a rocket to catcher Yorvit Torrealba and Zobrist was out easily. He didn't even attempt a slide, instead shoving Torrealba in hopes that the catcher might drop the ball.
Great at-bat: SS Elvis Andrus continues to look extremely comfortable at the plate. He fell behind 0-2 in the first inning and then fought his way back, fouling off pitches and walking on an 11-pitch at-bat. Andrus didn't waste any time stealing second base off Price and then scored on Hamilton's single.
Price is right: Price was 0-6 against the Rangers all-time with a 5.30 ERA in the regular season and postseason coming into the game. But Price pitched well Sunday, allowing two runs on six hits in 6 1/3 innings. He had six strikeouts and one walk. His changeup was particularly effective and makes him even more dangerous.
Ejected: Rangers manager Ron Washington was ejected for the first time this season and on his birthday no less (he turned 60 today). It's the 13th of his career. He was tossed by home plate umpire Dan Bellino after coming out to keep Ian Kinsler from possibly getting ejected himself after arguing a called third strike on a 3-2 splitter from reliever Joel Peralta. The call ended the seventh inning with the Rangers down 5-2. The ESPN K Zone showed the pitch right at the top, outside portion of the box. So it was close. Washington stayed out and argued to the delight of the sellout crowd.
Productive outs: In the fifth inning, Torrealba and Craig Gentry had back-to-back singles. While the Rangers would have liked hits from Kinsler and Andrus, both players did make productive outs, moving the runners over. Torrealba scored on Andrus' ground ball to cut the Rangers' deficit to two runs.
Big crowd (again): The Rangers announced a sellout crowd of 43,475 on Sunday. The figure was a bit low because the club had a seasonal employee event. But that's six straight sellouts, which just adds to the club record (previous high was four). And with the Angels the next opponent in Arlington, chances are good that's going to continue.
Unlucky birthday: The Rangers are now 0-5 on Ron Washington's birthday.
Tidbits: Mitch Moreland pinch hit for Gentry against Peralta and struck out in the seventh. ...The move meant Murphy moved to center with Moreland in right and Nelson Cruz in left. ... Nice heads up play by Torrealba, who threw to Beltre at third and got Evan Longoria heading back to the bag in the eighth. That eliminated a chance for the Rays to score an insurance run. ... The Rangers loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth, but the game ended with Kinsler hitting a line drive back to the mound, which Fernando Rodney gloved.
Up next: The Rangers head to Toronto for three games, starting with Monday's 6:05 p.m. contest (KSKY 660 AM/ESPN/FSSW) that features Yu Darvish on the mound for Texas.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Rangers GM Jon Daniels joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to tackle the tough questions after his team failed to advance to the playoffs.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss having Nelson Cruz back in the lineup and how the Rangers are feeling heading into their wild-card play-in game against the Rays.
Play Podcast ESPN Insider and senior MLB analyst Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the wild-card race and the Rangers' chances of making the playoffs.
Play Podcast Chuck Cooperstein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why he feels Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish isn't an ace.
Play Podcast Elvis Andrus joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Rangers' stretch run and the morale level in their clubhouse.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss the latest Rangers news, including the team's struggles, Ron Washington's job security and a rumored trade with the Braves.
Play Podcast Ron Washington joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss the Rangers' dismal September, who's to blame for their September struggles and his status as the team's manager.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss how some people are calling for the Rangers to fire manager Ron Washington.