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Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Rangers 4, Rays 3

By Richard Durrett



ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Rangers earned a trip to their second consecutive ALCS with a 4-3 win over the Rays in Game 4 of the ALDS at Tropicana Field. Adrian Beltre had a ridiculous game with three home runs (all solo shots) and the Rangers got quality pitching from Matt Harrison and the bullpen, which included Derek Holland on Tuesday. Some quick thoughts (plenty to come from the clubhouse):

* The Rangers are the first team other than the Yankees and Red Sox to advance to the ALCS in consecutive years since the Seattle Mariners in 2000 and 2001. And for the second time in less than a year, they celebrated a playoff series win in the visiting clubhouse at Tropicana Field.

* Beltre turned into Reggie Jackson on Tuesday, mashing three home runs. He's the first player to hit three homers in an ALDS game. He's the sixth player (seventh time) to hit three homers in the same postseason game. The others: Adam Kennedy (2002, ALCS), George Brett (1978 ALCS), Jackson (1977 World Series), Bob Robertson (1971 NLCS), Babe Ruth (1926, '28 World Series).

Beltre blasted a 1-0 pitch deep to left field to lead off the second inning for the first postseason homer of his career. He hit another one in his next at-bat off starter Jeremy Hellickson, this one flying out to right field as Beltre showed off his opposite-field power. And he led off the seventh with a home run to left field.

* Harrison pitched well in his first postseason start. He gave up two runs in five innings with nine strikeouts, which tied his career high (Sept. 18, 2011, vs. Seattle). Harrison threw 97 pitches, but he battled on deep-count at-bats and avoided getting into any serious trouble. He did what was needed with so many pitchers available to manager Ron Washington in the bullpen.

* Harrison needed a lot of pitches to get through the first three innings, but he was striking out Rays hitters at an impressive rate. He had seven strikeouts in the first three frames, including striking out the side in the third. In that inning, he struck out B.J. Upton with a high fastball, Evan Longoria with an cutter on the outer edge and Ben Zobrist with a changeup (swinging).

* A football game broke out in the second. With Sean Rodriguez at first, Matt Joyce hit a double to right-center. It was cut off by Nelson Cruz, who got it into Ian Kinsler, who made the relay throw. Rodriguez was waved around third and the throw came a fraction before Rodriguez barreled into catcher Mike Napoli. The ball was jarred loose as Napoli fell backward. Rodriguez led with his arms and got Napoli in the face, but I'm not sure what else he was supposed to do as he tried to make a strong slide to score the run.

* Napoli was checked on by trainer Jamie Reed after the play and stayed in. He was checked again in the dugout after the inning. Napoli wasn't really able to prepare himself for the hit because it happened so fast, but he was in position to block the plate and was able to fall backward. Give Cruz and Kinsler credit for very good throws.

* Kinsler started the game with a home run to left on an 0-1 pitch from Hellickson. It was Kinsler's first postseason home run of 2011. He led off the first inning with a homer seven times in 2011, the most in the majors and tying his club record. (Kinsler had three playoff homers in 2010, all of them against the Rays in the ALDS. That included an insurance two-run homer late in the clinching Game 5.) It was the first run the Rangers had scored in the first three innings of the series.

* It was the first leadoff homer ever by a Ranger in the postseason and the first in the majors since Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips in Game 2 of the 2010 NLDS at Philadelphia (off Roy Oswalt). The last leadoff homer in an ALDS game was Cleveland's Grady Sizemore in Game 4 in 2007 at New York (off Chien-Ming Wang).

* Harrison gave up a two-out RBI single to Casey Kotchman on a great at-bat by Kotchman and a rough call for Harrison. On a 2-2 pitch, Harrison threw a fastball that appeared to be a strike. It was called a ball and Kotchman singled on the next pitch. Kotchman fouled off pitches, got the count to 3-2 and then got a big hit. It was an impressive piece of hitting.

* Mitch Moreland's defense continues to sparkle. He scooped up a ground ball to start the sixth and had to dive to the bag to touch it before Johnny Damon got there. For 37 years old, Damon can really run and it was a very close play. That prevented the leadoff batter from getting on base. He made another nice play on a ground ball by Kotchman to end the inning.

* Holland came in to pitch the sixth and gave up a one-out single but got out of the inning with no further trouble. He got Joyce to ground out to start the seventh and that was all for him. A solid outing for Holland. The move was an indication that Washington wanted Mike Adams to pitch the seventh and Alexi Ogando the eighth, essentially flipping their roles.

* Adams looked more like the pitcher the Rangers thought they'd see in Game 3 of this ALDS. He got both batters he faced in the seventh, including a strikeout of Upton.

* Ogando came in for the eighth and again was dominant. He got Longoria on three pitches -- two sliders and a fastball that he blew right by him. Longoria was 0-for-7 with six strikeouts in Games 3 and 4 and 1-for-11 with six strikeouts in Games 2, 3 and 4.

* Neftali Feliz was brought in for the save, less than 24 hours after he got a four-out save in Game 3. His velocity was just fine, getting pinch-hitter Sam Fuld on a 98 mph fastball for the first out in the ninth. But he walked Rodriguez and gave up an RBI single to Kotchman before getting the final two outs.

* The Rangers have won five straight ALDS road games, tied for the second-longest such road winning streak with the Yankees (2003-05 vs. the Twins and Angels) and three behind the Braves (1995-99 vs. the Rockies, Dodgers, Astros and Cubs).