Mitch Moreland makes plays of the game
His nimble fielding in the fourth inning sparked a 3-6-1 double play to end a bases-loaded, one-out jam, and his backhand spear behind first base in the eighth inning with a runner on second preserved the Texas Rangers' 1-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
"He kind of got around it a little bit and had a little hook to it, so I had to stay with it," Moreland said of Ben Zobrist's eighth-inning rocket that ricocheted up on Moreland, making the stop more difficult. "That kind of play you don’t have a lot of time to think about it, just kind of react, made the play we got the out."
Moreland, who has been swinging a hot bat, got back in the starting lineup Tuesday and showed off the leather after taking a seat against Rays lefty David Price on Monday.
Rays outfielder Sam Fuld had singled with one out in the eighth and stole second to get the first Rays baserunner in scoring position since Moreland started the double play in the fourth. As Fuld charged around third he seemed almost in disbelief that Zobrist's shot was snared by Moreland's glove and not skidding into right field for a run-scoring single.
"That was huge," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Moreland was on the front end of that double play, made a very nice throw to Elvis (Andrus) up so he could see it and brought it back for Yu. ... And then the one Moreland made down the line, that was huge right there."
Moreland not only preserved the win for Darvish, but also helped extend reliever Mike Adams' scoreless run to nine innings in his last 10 games. Adams pitched to four batters in the eighth inning and closer Joe Nathan struck out the side in the ninth for his 25th consecutive save.
As for the lefty-swinging Moreland, who singled in the eighth and is hitting .296, he remains mostly a platoon player at first, even with catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli still injured. He sat out Monday's game against Price before entering as a defensive replacement in the latter innings.
"I come in every day ready to play," Moreland said. "I want to come in and if I’m in the lineup I’m going to go out there and do whatever I can to help the team win, and if I’m not I’ll be ready off the bench. That’s just the way I look at it and the way I’m going to keep approaching it every day. We’ve got one common goal, and that’s to go in to the postseason and win it."
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.