Texas Rangers: Carl Crawford
The rest of the lineups:
2B Ian Kinsler
SS Elvis Andrus
LF Josh Hamilton (L)
3B Adrian Beltre
1B Michael Young
DH Nelson Cruz
RF David Murphy (L)
C Mike Napoli
CF Craig Gentry
CF Jacoby Ellsbury (L)
DH Pedro Ciriaco
2B Dustin Pedroia
1B Adrian Gonzalez (L)
RF Cody Ross
3B Will Middlebrooks
LF Carl Crawford (L)
C Kelly Shoppach
SS Mike Aviles
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Matt Harrison struggled from the get-go, allowing seven runs in five innings as the Red Sox pounded the Rangers. Texas wasn't able to do much of anything off Josh Beckett and it was simply an ugly all-around game from the Rangers' perspective. They'll wait to see how the Angels do tonight. If the Angels win, it's a 2 1/2-game lead. If they lose, Texas will stay 3 1/2 in front. Some quick thoughts (more to come from the clubhouse shortly):
* For the second straight night, the Red Sox scored at least 11 runs off Rangers pitchers. Texas has now lost five of its last seven.
* Harrison couldn't seem the get the ball down in the first and gave up four runs on five hits. Boston came out ready to swing and the left-handed hitters were successful. Jacoby Ellsbury, Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz and Carl Crawford all had singles off Harrison. Crawford's triple scored two runs.
* Left-handed hitters ended up 6-for-10 with four RBIs (5-for-5 to start the night) against Harrison on Wednesday. They were hitting .289 against him coming into the game, much higher than the .242 he holds righties to.
* It's rare to see Ortiz score from first, but clearly his foot wasn't bothering him enough not to motor around on Crawford's triple in the first. The relay throw from Omar Quintanilla wasn't great and Mike Napoli wasn't able to keep his glove on it and tag Ortiz.
* Harrison got ahead of Adrian Gonzalez 0-2 in the second inning and then threw four pitches that really weren't close and walked him. Gonzalez scored on Dustin Pedroia's RBI single.
* Harrison's velocity was down a few clicks on Wednesday, as well. He was hovering around 89-91 mph and normally throws 91-94 or so.
* Josh Hamilton had a strange slide into second base in the first. He slid and then lifted his arm to try to get around the tag, which he did. He then flipped over his left leg to keep it on the base. It looked odd, but he was safe. Hamilton made a great defensive play in the fifth, throwing a bullet on the money to second base to get Jason Varitek trying to stretch a single into a double.
* Bat Boy McCoy, a break-dancer, made his debut after the third inning on top of the Rangers dugout. The players seemed perplexed, but enjoyed it. He got a nice hand. We'll have more about him on the blog tomorrow.
* Shortly after Harrison began pitching in the first, the wind really kicked up as dark clouds were seen overhead (yes, dark clouds. I know, very odd). The temperature went from 104 degrees to 88 in one inning. I can't remember that dramatic a change that quickly at a ballgame. The game finished with the temperature at 84 degrees, 20 degrees cooler than when the game started.
* Mike Napoli stayed hot, drilling a home run in the fourth for the first hit and first run of the game for Texas. Napoli has 22 homers on the season and has hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games and 23 of his last 27.
* Every Rangers pitcher except Mark Lowe (who pitched a perfect ninth) gave up runs. Yoshinori Tateyama gave up two runs in his lone inning of work. Darren O'Day, called up on Wednesday, surrendered four runs on three hits with five strikeouts in two innings.
* Crawford's five RBIs tied a career-high. He had a sac fly, two-RBI double and two-run homer.
* The announced attendance was 30, 724.
* Omar Quintanilla is hitless in his last 17 at-bats.
|Texas Rangers co-owner Chuck Greenberg calls in to The Ben & Skin Show to discuss the latest developments in the chase for Cliff Lee.
* Nelson Cruz's agents were at the Winter Meetings and said they have talked to the Rangers a few times to check in. Obviously, they'd like to hammer out a long-term contract for Cruz that would take him through his arbitration years. But since he's just starting that window, the club could opt to wait until after the 2011 season to really get serious about that. Cruz remains one of the best stories on this team after he went through waivers and wasn't claimed by anyone only to revamp his swing and become a solid hitter in the middle of the lineup. He was also the team's best clutch hitter in 2010 (if you ask me) and an integral part of the clubhouse.
* Several baseball officials noted how slow the relief market got starting about Tuesday of the Winter Meetings. There was contact between agents and teams all day on Monday, but by Tuesday afternoon it had really slowed. The blame: Lee. Many of the teams that could shift to more bullpen help were also considering Lee and didn't want to commit to anything until they knew what the deal was with the free agent pitcher. The Rangers could look at some options there, though they are pleased with their current bullpen setup and it isn't a major priority.
* The Rangers showed some interest in a handful of designated hitter possibilities, including Manny Ramirez, Marcus Thames and Jim Thome. At this point, the preference remains Vladimir Guerrero. The club met with his agent on Tuesday. Guerrero wants a multi-year deal and the Rangers are more comfortable with a one-year deal. So both sides are content right now to let things play out. In the meantime, the Rangers will make sure they've got some other options out there. They'd like a right-handed hitter, but will not rule out a left-handed hitter (Thome is a lefty) in that role. They also wouldn't mind someone who could also play the field, but admitted they've gone back and forth on how important that is. I still think Guerrero ends up here, but we'll see.
* GM Jon Daniels said the club was never really serious about Carl Crawford. "We talked to Crawford’s guys, but we were not expected to sign him," Daniels said. "We didn’t really look at it as a realistic option."
* So far, Daniels said the club hasn't been hampered by the fact that Lee hasn't made a decision yet. "We haven’t had a moment come up where we said, ‘If we go and make this move, we have to back out of Cliff Lee,’" Daniels said. "That moment in time has not come."
* Daniels said Boston's move to acquire Crawford was a good one. "It’s an aggressive move and they are an aggressive team," Daniels said.
The Rangers didn't make any big signings, but they felt like they were able to explore some avenues and continue their offseason plan. Once Lee makes a decision, Daniels and his staff can look at the rest of the starter market (trading for Matt Garza or Zack Greinke perhaps or continuing to check in on some low risk/high reward options like Brandon Webb and Jeff Francis). Just remember: The offseason doesn't end with the Winter Meetings.
* Nolan Ryan expects that to get Cliff Lee, the Rangers will have to agree to a six-year deal. And the club appears willing to do that. They have put the ball in Lee's court and asked his agent to tell them what it would take to get Lee to Texas. Click here to read all about that.
* I like this approach by the Rangers. They want to shorten the bidding process and firmly believe Lee wants to stay in Texas. So here is his chance to give them the framework of a deal to do that. Read some of my thoughts here.
* I looked up the top state income tax rate in New York and it's 8.97 percent. That's a lot of money Lee could save by going to Texas. And it means the Rangers' offer doesn't have to equal the exact same dollar amount to be a better one, either. Just a thought.
* But now that the Red Sox got Carl Crawford, you can bet the Yankees will step up for Lee now. That could make things more difficult on Texas. We'll see.
* GM Jon Daniels said the club is not in a rush to sign a designated hitter, even as some big bats come off the board. Paul Konerko agreed to a three-year deal with the White Sox.
"We liked the player, but we were never really engaged to the point where we thought it was realistic," Daniels said.
A baseball official told me the Rangers were interested, but couldn't commit to the dollars without knowing what was going on with Lee. That's another reminder of why this needs to get resolved so the club can move forward with its other offseason plans.
* The Rangers remain interested in Jim Thome, even though he's a left-handed hitter. They have looked at a gaggle of others, including Manny Ramirez and Marcus Thames. The Rangers did not attend a workout session for Magglio Ordonez and don't appear very interested at this point.
* Texas was interested in Carl Crawford, meeting with his representatives on Wednesday. But by late Wednesday night, Crawford was a Red Sox outfielder. So cross him off the list.
* The relief market has been slowed by teams waiting on Lee. So that's an area the Rangers are likely to address more in the coming weeks, assuming they'd like to bring some more depth to spring training there. But they are also pleased with their current bullpen, so that's not a high priority.
* The Rangers have checked into Brandon Webb and Jeff Francis and met with Andrew Miller and his representatives yesterday.
* Vladimir Guerrero continues to be the club's top option at DH. He wants a multi-year deal and the Rangers want a one-year deal. So something could be worked out if Guerrero can't find that multi-year deal he wants (and so far he hasn't). The Rangers did meet with his agents on Tuesday.
* Texas does have interest in Matt Garza, but I'm hearing right now the Rays are asking a high price, so nothing is likely to happen quickly on that front.
* The Rangers are also still checking in on Zack Greinke, though the Royals are also talking about many prime prospects. It's likely the Royals will wait until after Lee signs before getting serious.
* Buzz is that Texas could end up getting in on Carl Pavano, but I don't think the interest level is high on the Rangers part right now.
* Names to watch in the Rule-5 draft for Texas on Thursday: Kasey Kiker, Chad Tracy and Joseph Ortiz. Jason Cole has some other players to note in his report here on LoneStar Dugout. Check it out.
* Michael Young said he wants to be a Ranger, telling FoxSports.com: "I’m a Ranger. I have no interest in playing for a different organization. The idea of suiting up for a different team in spring training doesn’t appeal to me at all."
* Daniels said it's very unlikely the club would move Young. Here is what Daniels had to say on the topic.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Rangers met with Carl Crawford's representatives Wednesday for the first time at the Winter Meetings. But they won't be meeting with them Thursday.
Crawford agreed to a seven-year deal worth $142 million with the Red Sox late Wednesday night, ESPNBoston.com confirmed. That takes one of the top free agent hitters off the market. Crawford, 29, hit .307 with 19 homers and 90 RBIs in left field for the Rays in 2010.
The Rangers showed interest in Crawford, but the Red Sox won out. My question: Will this make the Yankees even more desperate to sign Cliff Lee? Stay tuned.
* ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick reports that Cliff Lee's agent, Darek Braunecker, has left the meetings. He had indicated to me earlier today that he might leave tonight and apparently he's decided to do that. He told me he had productive meetings with the Rangers this week and that the club is "still in the mix." Read more about that here.
|ESPNDallas.com's Richard Durrett checks in with the latest from the MLB Winter Meetings.
* Earlier today, Braunecker said one team had been eliminated from the Lee sweepstakes. Of course, he didn't say which team that might be.
* Two baseball officials mentioned that the market for relievers has slowed down. Apparently teams, like Texas, are waiting to see what Lee does before making a move in that area.
* Texas met with representatives for Carl Crawford and have some interest in the outfielder. This is likely a fall back plan. It's a crowded outfield, but Crawford sure would look good in the Rangers' lineup. He's from Houston and his left-handed bat would play well in Arlington. He'll command more than Jayson Werth (7 years, $126 million -- a contract that still stuns me), but it might be an option of the club doesn't get Lee.
* The price for Kansas City's Zack Greinke remains high in terms of trade value. The Royals will likely wait until Lee is signed before really cranking things up. The Rangers have the prospects to get Greinke, but don't want to give up the number and names that the Royals want at this point. Texas doesn't want to part with Jurickson Profar, but others are on that list of "guys the club wouldn't want to give up." I will remind you that they didn't want to trade Justin Smoak either, presenting every combination they could think of to the Mariners that didn't include him. But in the end, they pulled the trigger.
* Texas was expected to meet with Vladimir Guerrero's agents today and they remain very interested in the slugger. He wants a multi-year deal and the Rangers would prefer a one-year deal. Maybe they could meet in the middle with a one-year deal with an option that includes a buyout similar to Guerrero's last contract? We'll see. They have shown interest in Jim Thome, Magglio Ordonez and Marcus Thames. And yes, Manny Ramirez.
* I haven't heard Michael Young's name for most of the day today. His name has come up in discussions, but as Nolan Ryan said yesterday, the team isn't shopping him. Don't expect the Rangers to trade Young, who is due $16 million for three more seasons. Nor should they. He's the face of the franchise, the unquestioned team leader and can still hit, folks. But you always have to listen. You never know when someone might blow your socks off.
* The Rangers do have interest in Matt Garza, if he's made available by the Rays. What's unclear is what that may cost in prospects. But it's another option if Lee falls through or the Greinke price stays too high.
Back to the lobby. Stay tuned.
A source confirms the Rangers have talked with Crawford's agent and have some interest in the outfielder. Crawford had 19 homers and 90 RBIs in 154 games and hit .307 with the Rays last season. Crawford is expected to get more than Jayson Werth, who signed a 7-year, $126 million contract with the Nationals this week.
It's unclear if the Rangers could afford both Lee and Crawford, but it's doubtful. ESPNNewYork.com reports that the Yankees are also interested in Crawford and that it's possible they could both fit into the budget. The likely scenario is that Crawford is a bit of a backup plan should the Rangers not get Lee.
This is still early in the process, so we'll see where this leads. But if obtained, Crawford would join an already crowded Rangers' outfield. If he could play center, the Rangers could keep Josh Hamilton in left. It's also possible that Crawford allows manager Ron Washington the freedom to move pieces around so that the DH spot becomes one where a few players float in and out to get them off of their feet.
Crawford is a left-handed bat, though. So we'll see if that impacts things at all. He's an impact player and would certainly make the lineup stronger. But he won't come cheap. We'll keep an eye on it.
Here's the Rays lineup:
SS Jason Bartlett
RF Ben Zobrist (S)
LF Carl Crawford (L)
3B Evan Longoria
1B Carlos Pena (L)
CF B.J. Upton
DH Dan Johnson (L)
C Kelly Shoppach
2B Sean Rodriguez
P David Price
The lineup was tweaked slightly in terms of the order Lee faces. Zobrist hit seventh in Game 1. Johnson did pinch hit, but he faced Darren Oliver and not Lee.
Click here to see how the Rays' lineup compares to the Rangers' starters.
Does he go back to the right-handed-heavy lineup that produced one run and eight hits combined in Games 1 and 2 against Lee and C.J. Wilson? Or does he stick with some of his lefty bats that heated up in Arlington and racked up 11 runs and 23 hits against Rangers righties Colby Lewis and Tommy Hunter?
Maddon used six left-handed hitters in Game 3 and seven in Game 4.
"I'm debating a couple little things quite frankly, but more than likely you're going to see a very similar lineup for us vs. a left-handed pitcher," Maddon said Monday afternoon. "I do have a lot of confidence in this group. Our record against left-handed pitching has actually been very good this year."
Just not of late, losing five in a row against southpaws. Although, the Rays take stock in having beaten Lee in all three regular-season matchups as well as having ace David Price throwing in an redemption effort against a Rangers lineup that has hit the skids.
Maddon has changed his batting order in each of the first four games. He practically made wholesale flip-flops against the Rangers' lefties and righties, strategies he's employed throughout the year, such as inserting lefties in rookie left-handed catcher John Jaso, right fielder Matt Joyce and designated hitter Dan Johnson, and even going with shortstop Reid Brignac in Game 4.
Maddon has also made key changes in the order. He dropped the struggling duo of B.J. Upton and Carlos Pena to the bottom in Game 3 to sort of create two hearts of the lineup with Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria at the top of the lineup. Pena returned to the five-hole in Game 4, while Upton stayed down. The moves paid off. Upton got key hits in Game 3 and 4 and Pena heated up.
Now the question is where will Maddon go now? We know Rocco Baldelli won't be in the lineup as the DH as he surprisingly was in Game 1. He is no longer on the playoff roster. Switch-hitter Willy Aybar will likely (1-for-5 in series) get the nod. Maddon also assured that the lefty slugger Pena will play. The usual five-hole hitter sat in Game 2 against Wilson after going 0-for-3 with three strikeouts against Lee in the opener.
Catcher and Fort Worth-product Kelly Shoppach (0-for-6 in series) could be back in the lineup as well as second baseman Sean Rodriguez (1-for-7).
"Joe has a ton of versatility over there and he's used his lineup the way he's used it against us all year, so I don't see anything different in what he's doing," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "It's just that his left-handers have been giving him some very good at-bats, and those guys do that. But he has a ton of versatility over there. He can mix and match and it doesn't really matter, and he can set that lineup where it doesn't matter what you do, they can handle it, even if they leave a lefty on our lefty."
The 22-year-old, who set a rookie record with 40 saves, came in to Game 3 and gave up the go-ahead single in the eighth and a leadoff homer to Carl Crawford in the ninth. His manager, though, remains confident in his closer.
"His head is fine," Washington said. "You've got to experience this stuff. It's not easy. He's our guy. He'll have to go through it. That's your job, you'll do it. If he can't do it, we'll live with it."
They say no. Neftali Feliz's performance in two appearances in this suddenly tighter best-of-5 ALDS might give another impression: Three walks, two runs allowed -- one charged -- and a Carl Crawford dinger in 1 1/3 innings.
Jaso knocked in the go-ahead run and then Feliz gave up the ninth-inning homer to Crawford, what turned out to be the winning run in the Rays' 6-3 comeback victory in Game 3 of their ALDS.
The hard-throwing Feliz has yet to enter a game in this series in an actual save situation. He came on in Game 1 to start the ninth inning with a 5-1 lead. In Saturday's Game 3, Washington went to him with two outs in the eighth, the game tied 2-2 and the rare situation for the rookie closer to come into with a runner on base.
Feliz faced the No. 9-hitter Bartlett and took hom to a full before walking him to move the go-ahead run to second base.
"He was trying to blow it by him," catcher Bengie Molina said of Feliz's approach to Bartlett. "And in that situation I think all he had to do was throw a strike and make him put it in play."
That didn't happen and it brought Jaso to plate with a chance to give the Rays their first lead of the series. Feliz got ahead of him 0-2 and Molina trotted to the mound for a brief discussion with Feliz. Molina said they discussed pitch selection, deciding on a slider that needed to dive into the dirt in hopes Jaso would chase it.
"We decided to bury the slider. It just didn’t happen," Molina said. "It was supposed to be in the dirt, but it didn’t happen. Sometimes he throws too hard. He throws really hard."
The slider floated on Feliz and Jaso seized the opportunity, dropping it into center field for an RBI single, and the Rangers, who entered the eighth inning leading 2-1 and just six outs away from a series sweep, now trailed, 3-2.
"He didn’t even have a good swing on it," Molina said of Jaso's single. "He hit a jammed shot up the middle."
The run was charged to Darren Oliver, who found trouble earlier in the inning. Darren O'Day relieved Oliver and pitched to one batter, recording a strikeout. Then Washington turned to Feliz to face the right-handed Bartlett even though the game was tied.
After Elvis Andrus, Michael Young and Josh Hamilton went down in order in the bottom of the eighth, the 22-year-old Feliz, the rookie who saved 40 games this season, came out for the ninth. He lasted one batter. Crawford pummeled Feliz's full-count fastball into the Rangers bullpen for a 4-2 lead.
Feliz will need to have a short memory. After Tampa Bay went on to blow it open in the ninth and post a 6-3 victory, Sunday’s Game 4 is slated for a noon start. Feliz, who often answers post-game questions through an interpreter, did not make himself available in the clubhouse after the game. But, former reliever C.J. Wilson said he believes that the young All-Star will clear his head and be just fine.
“He had 40 saves this year. He knows what he’s doing. He throws 100 mph,” Wilson said. “That’s only his second game he’s pitched in the playoffs. He’s not going to be perfect. Nefty, physically, has all the tools. He just doesn’t have the experience yet.”
In fact, if Feliz gets his first postseason save he will become the fifth-youngest pitcher in the majors to ever to post a save in the playoffs.
“He’s a very confident guy,” Wilson said. “He’s got all the stuff in the world. He’ll probably think about it and once he gets done showering he’ll probably be ready to pitch tomorrow.”
Still, some of the signs are troubling. His back-to-back walks to the first batters he faced in Game 1 matched his most walks in any career regular-season appearance and the most since June 12.
Crawford’s homer was the first Feliz has allowed since Aug. 22. He went his final 16 appearances of the regular season without giving up a long ball.
Of course, if the meat of the Rangers’ order could have done some damage, Feliz might have found himself in the more familiar save situation, coming on to start the ninth with the bases empty and firing to preserve the lead and end the game.
“He’s resilient,” outfielder David Murphy said. “You’re never going to be perfect as a closer. There’s a lot of games that go on his shoulders that don’t go on other peoples’ and so it looks that much bigger each time he’s out there. He’s a young kid. He hasn’t been in the league that long, but obviously he’s got great stuff. He’s our closer so everybody’s going to stand behind him.”
Including Washington, who said Feliz’s struggles do not concern him.
“It was just one of those nights,” Washington said.
Nippert's first appearance of the ALDS left the Rangers' bullpen without another reliever. Had the the game gone into extra innings, it is possible that Wilson might have had to pitch. Under a similar situation in Game 4, Wilson said he will again be prepared to take on the role he used to have on this team out of the bullpen.
"It depends on what’s needed," Wilson said of his availability Sunday's Game 4, slated for a noon start. "But, with the number of lefties they have and my effectiveness against lefties, I would think I could throw an inning or two."
Wilson could pitch and not threaten his next start, which would now come in either Game 1 or Game 2 of a potential American League Championship Series.
"Theoretically, if we have to go the full distance, I’m not going to be starting. Cliff [Lee] will be starting Game 5," Wilson said. "My first start wouldn’t be until Friday of next week [the start of the ALCS].
Lee also spent Game 3 in the bullpen as an extreme emergency precaution. Game 4 would have to go deep, deep into extra innings for Washington to get to Lee.
However, potential issues arose in Game 3 because the Rangers opted to put 10 pitchers on the ALDS roster instead of 11. Frank Francisco's injury is one reason why.
Despite being down 0-2, Tampa Bay is trying to focus on simply winning Saturday to keep their playoff hopes alive.
"We just need to create that spark to get us going," infielder Sean Rodriguez said. "We've done that all year. A big hit, a key out, a break going our way. We haven't had that in this series and we need it."
Rodriguez was quick to say that just because the Rangers may have had a call go their way in Game 2 (Michael Young's check swing), doesn't mean the Rays should just shrug their shoulders.
"Calls like that happen in the regular season," Rodriguez said. "A baby can blame the umpires. That doesn't help and isn't fair. When you have adversity, you have to overcome it. That's what we're going to try to do.
"We're very confident we can win three straight games against anyone in the big leagues."
Carl Crawford said the mood of the Rays was unchanged from what it's been all season.
"Believe it or not, it was the same like it always is," Crawford said. "Guys being loud, a lot of music playing, real loose. We really didn't change nothing. We've kept our same approach. And it usually works for us. We'll see tomorrow."
"We think about that all the time," Crawford said. "Me, him and Rocco Baldelli. That was supposed to be the outfield. We just think how great that outfield could have been and then what kind of numbers we could have been putting up and how many championships we probably could have won. It was just one of those things where we didn’t get to see it, but we think about it all the time."
Everyone knows what happened to Hamilton, how he nearly threw away his career in a swirl of drugs and alcohol, and how a terrific player almost never was.
"It’s amazing that he was able to go through the stuff that he did and still come back and be arguably the best player in the game," Crawford said. "I didn’t know he could come back from such a tough situation like that, but I’m definitely happy for him. We were real close in the minor leagues."
Hamilton last wore a uniform in the Rays organization in 2006 with the Hudson Valley Renegades of the New York-Penn League where he won a championship in his first year as a pro in '99.
"I remember the things that you guys see right now," Crawford said. "He was just an unbelievable athlete, had a great talent and I had a chance to see it every day at a young age, when we were 17 years old. That’s what I remember."
Hamilton's road to the Texas Rangers went like this: Drafted by the Chicago Cubs from Tampa Bay in the 2006 rule 5 draft on Dec. 7; purchased by the Cincinnati Reds from the Chicago Cubs on that same day; two years later traded by the Reds to the Rangers for Danny Herrera and Edinson Volquez.
As Hamilton has now come full circle -- the 2010 American League batting champ and a leading MVP candidate playing against the team that drafted him in the playoffs -- he said he, too, thinks about what might have been in Tampa.
"It would have been a pretty disgusting outfield. It would have been sick. You probably would have had to hit it over the fence for a ball to drop in, really. So you think about that," Hamilton said. "But I mean, that's what's so hard to predict, like when you're scouting and you're predicting and projecting players. I mean, that's what's so difficult about it, because you don't know what's going to happen. You don't know what life is going to throw at them or injuries or anything like that. So when you project things like that, that's exactly what it is, a projection, because a lot of times it doesn't end up that way. But to think about it, it would have been a pretty good one."
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