Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Tampa Bay 5, Rangers 4
By Richard Durrett
Well, that was a kick in the gut for Texas. Rangers reliever Arthur Rhodes let the late lead slip away as the Rays won, 5-4. Evan Longoria's homer in the eighth was the difference. It means we'll have a rubber match at 12:10 p.m. on Wednesday. Please join me at Buffalo Wild Wings in Addison for a live in-game chat tomorrow. Some quick thoughts on tonight's game:
* The issues in the Rangers' bullpen continued Tuesday. After Texas had taken a 4-3 lead into the eighth, 41-year-old Arthur Rhodes came in with two outs and no one on to face left-handed hitter Johnny Damon. After getting ahead in the count, Rhodes allowed a bloop single to left (it was a tough play for Elvis Andrus, trying to backhand it on the run). That brought up Longoria, a right-handed hitter. Manager Ron Washington stuck with Rhodes, who allowed the homer (it barely cleared the wall in center). The two-run blast gave the Rays the lead.
* For those curious (and I know you are), here were the numbers Washington was dealing with in sticking with Rhodes against Longoria. While right-handed hitters are batting .286 off Rhodes this season (lefties just .150), Longoria was hitting only .125 against lefties, striking out in eight of his 16 at-bats off of them with no homers. He had also never faced Rhodes before, so I can see Washington's thinking there.
* Right after the Rays appeared to grab the momentum in tying the game in the seventh, the Rangers struck back. Nelson Cruz started the inning by getting ahead in the count and singling. Lefty J.P. Howell then had to face left-handed hitter Mitch Moreland and hit a 3-2 slider to center to put two on with no outs and force a pitching change. Joel Peralta came in and got Mike Napoli and Endy Chavez to fly out. But with two outs and Cruz at third base, Peralta threw a wild pitch to Ian Kinsler, allowing Cruz to score and the Rangers to regain the lead. It was another example of aggressive baserunning enabling Texas to be in position to pounce when the opposition made a mistake.
* C.J. Wilson pitched well, but he won't be happy with what happened in the seventh inning. He was leading 3-1 and had a runner on with two outs before giving up a two-run homer to Matt Joyce to tie the score. Until the seventh, Wilson had allowed just one hit, baffling the Rays hitters.
* Wilson started the game by finding the corners, a sign that he was going to have a good night. He got the first two hitters he faced with strikeouts with good fastballs and a mixture of off-speed stuff with nice movement. Wilson ended up with 10 strikeouts (seven of them looking) in 6 2/3 innings. At one point, Wilson had five straight strikeouts.
* Wilson, who led the AL in walks in 2010, managed to walk three batters in the second, loading the bases with one out. But the third walk came with runners and second and third and it appeared Wilson was working around Joyce (seems understandable knowing what he would end up doing in the seventh) to get to Kelly Shoppach, who has been struggling. Wilson went to the curve and got ahead in the count 0-2 and then got Shoppach to hit a routine 6-4-3 double play to end the inning and get out of a big jam. He didn't walk another batter until his final hitter in the seventh.
* Wilson was not able to execute a shutdown inning in both opportunities. The first was in the third. With two outs and no one on, Wilson got behind 3-1 and Sean Rodriguez hit a long homer to left. Wilson's fastball found the middle of the plate as he guarded against walking him. It was one of the few fastballs that didn't have great movement for Wilson on Tuesday. So he ended up giving up all three runs with two outs and on homers.
* Mark Lowe struck out Sean Rodriguez with a slider on the outside corner on 3-2 and ended up retiring all three batters he faced (one in the seventh and two in the eighth). He left when Rhodes came in to face Damon for the lefty-lefty matchup.
* Mike Napoli continues to have a solid series. After two homers in the first game of the series Monday, Napoli had a walk, a hit and a run scored Tuesday.
* Josh Hamilton has talked about how a head-first slide allows him a better chance to avoid tags. Well, that was evident in the first. He slid into second base head first and was able to snake his way around a tag attempt to get in safely. That put runners at second and third with one out, but the Rangers didn't score.
* Kinsler hit well during the last homestand but has struggled mightly on the road (hitting .143 coming in to Tuesday's game). Yet on Tuesday, more of what we saw last week as Kinsler was patient in the first, drawing a walk. He went to third on a bad pickoff throw attempt but was stranded. He added an RBI single after the Chavez made contact on a hit-and-run to move Napoli to second in the seventh. It gave the Rangers the lead at the time.
* The Rangers made things happen with two outs, something they've been doing all year. Texas came into the game tied for second in the AL with 73 RBIs with runners in scoring position and two outs. Hamilton started it with a four-pitch walk and Michael Young singled to put two runners on for Adrian Beltre. The third baseman got ahead in the count and took advantage and hit one up the middle to score Hamilton. The Rangers got aggressive on the hit as Young went to third and Beltre raced to second on the throw in.
* Young just keeps delivering. He hit the first pitch he saw in the seventh to score the Rangers' third run of the game. Young was batting .417 with runners in scoring position coming into the game.