Saturday, October 9, 2010
Game thoughts: Rays get comeback win
By Richard Durrett
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Tampa Bay Rays came back from a 2-1 deficit in the eighth to beat the Rangers, 6-3, and force a Game 4 on Sunday at 12:07 p.m. Some quick thoughts (from a Rangers perspective) on the game. Stay tuned to the Rangers blog for reaction from the clubhouse.
* A crowd of 51, 746 saw Game 3. It's the all-time record at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, including all regular season, postseason and All-Star games (1995).
* Texas is now 0-5 in home playoff games at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. They've scored a total of 9 runs in those five games.
Carl Crawford ended Neftali Feliz's night with a home run in the ninth.
* The Rangers couldn't hold a 2-1 lead in the eighth. Lefty Darren Oliver started the inning and gave up hits to two lefties -- Dan Johnson (double) and Carlos Pena (single) -- to tie the score. Darren O'Day came in and struck out B.J. Upton. In a tie game, manager Ron Washington opted to bring in closer Neftali Feliz to get the final out (part of that may have been Jason Bartlett's 3-for-5 mark against O'Day lifetime). But Feliz couldn't do it. We'll get into Washington's use of the bullpen a little later. Stay tuned for that.
* Feliz threw one off-speed pitch -- a curveball -- to John Jaso in the eighth and he hit it to center field to give the Rays the lead. Feliz stayed in for the ninth and gave up a homer to Carl Crawford and was pulled. He was nervous in Game 1 of the ALDS. He looked tight out there today.
* Ian Kinsler came up with a big hit, a home run to left field on a 3-2 pitch, the final one thrown by starter Matt Garza in the seventh inning. Despite a .376 average against left-handed pitchers, Kinsler had just one homer off a lefty in the regular season. With a tiring pitcher on the mound, Kinsler worked a 7-pitch at-bat. That gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
* The Rangers, who scored most of their runs in the first two games with power, took advantage of a Rays mistake and then scored a run on a ground ball. Mitch Moreland, who starts at first base against right-handed pitchers, hit a double to left field on an 0-1 pitch. With Elvis Andrus prepared to bunt, starter Matt Garza threw a fastball that catcher John Jaso couldn't handle. It just went off his glove and got away, allowing Moreland to go to third. Andrus, swinging away, hit a ball up the middle that scored the game's first run.
* The Rays tied the score in the sixth. Lewis walked the leadoff batter and was taken out for Derek Holland. He got two outs -- one thanks to a tremendous throw by Nelson Cruz (more on that coming) -- but walked Carlos Pena on four pitches to put runners at first and second with two outs. He was lifted for Alexi Ogando, who gave up a double to left by B.J. Upton (who worked the count to 2-1 before getting the pitch he could hit) to score the tying run. Ogando got Jason Bartlett to end the inning. It was Holland and Ogando's first taste of the postseason.
Interesting stat from ESPN Inside Edge: Upton had gone 4-for-44 against 95+ mph fastballs before that double.
* Bartlett made one of the Rays' biggest defensive plays of the year in the sixth. Nelson Cruz hit a rocket up the middle and Bartlett made a fully stretched out dive to his left to get the out and prevent the go-ahead run (Elvis Andrus) from scoring. The emotional Matt Garza was fired up about it. It came after the Rays felt a call went against them when Andrus stole second and appeared to over slide with the tag still applied.
* Colby Lewis threw 39 pitches in the first three innings. That included a 9-pitch second inning with two strikeouts. Lewis threw just one first-pitch strike to the first four batters he faced and then got a strike on his first pitch to the next nine batters that came up.
* Lewis ran into trouble in the fourth and fifth with two outs. Getting behind hitters was the problem. He gave up a single (to Matt Joyce) and a walk (to Dan Johnson) in the fourth. Carlos Pena hit a 3-1 fastball deep to right field, but it was held up enough for Nelson Cruz to catch it in the corner. In the fifth, Lewis gave up consecutive walks to John Jaso and Ben Zobrist before retiring Carl Crawford on a 1-2 swinging fastball. That out had catcher Bengie Molina pumping his fist and the crowd going crazy (and waving their towels, of course).
* That fourth and fifth innings were examples of Lewis' impressive numbers with runners on base and in scoring position. No one in the AL was better with runners on base than Lewis, who held opponents to a league-best .201 average. He was third in the AL in 2010 in opponent average with runners in scoring position at .187.
* Lewis walked five Tampa Bay batters on Saturday in 5+ innings. In the regular season, Lewis' highest walk total was four (he did that four times, but all in April or May).
* Cruz made one of his best throws of the season in the sixth. He has a rocket arm and as Matt Joyce rounded too far off the bag on a Dan Johnson single and thought about going to third, he fired a bullet to Ian Kinsler. Joyce scrambled back, but Kinsler got to the bag and made the tag. Instead of runners at first and second with one out, that left a runner at first with two outs. Cruz also had a home run in the ninth (a solo shot). It was his second homer of the playoffs.
* Texas couldn't cash in a two-out opportunity in the second. Ian Kinsler worked a walk on a 3-2 pitch and David Murphy, showing no signs of issues with the strained left groin, hit a single to right. But Rays starter Matt Garza got Bengie Molina to ground out to third to end the threat.
* SS Andrus, who has put up top-10 SportsCenter plays every month in his two seasons it seems, came in on a slow grounder by Evan Longoria in the fourth, barehanded it and got the out. That's the kind of play Andrus has improved on in his brief major league career. The infield grass at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington is pretty long, so those slow rollers don't get to the infield dirt very quickly.
* The crowd was into the game even 30 minutes before the first pitch. The club handed out about 40,000 white towels and when the club was introduced, the sellout crowd waved them and was very loud. Many fans had antlers and brooms, hoping for a sweep of the ALDS. Even with the Texas A&M-Arkansas game going on at Cowboys Stadium, the baseball fans made sure they were in the stadium and ready when the game started. No late-arriving crowd for the playoffs (unlike other sellouts in Arlington this season).
* Former president George W. Bush (and former Ranger managing general partner) was in the front row beside Jim Nantz and two seats down from club president Nolan Ryan. Bush, who was an owner of the club when the moved into Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in 1994, has been to a handful of games this 2010 season. He threw out the first pitch before Opening Day in 2009 as well.
* The flags on top of the office building were all official Texas state flags instead of flags from the rest of the Major League teams. Just a change for the playoffs to give it even more of a Texas feel.