Texas Rangers: Jeff Niemann
Lewis (2-0, 2.03 ERA): Lewis continues to be effective this season and, if history is a guide, it could be a rough day for the Tampa Bay lineup. The Rays are batting just .146 against Lewis.
Niemann (1-2, 4.11 ERA): Don't let the record and ERA fool you. Righties are hitting just .074 against Niemann this season. He has had problems keeping his pitch count down, so the Rangers could benefit from being patient and getting to the Rays' bullpen early. Niemann hasn't made it into the sixth inning this season.
Hitters: Adrian Beltre is 6-for-19 against Niemann. ... Ian Kinsler has two solo home runs in six at-bats against Niemann. ...Mike Napoli is 5-for-12 with six RBIs. ...The Rays as a team are just 7-for-48 against Lewis. ...Jeff Keppinger is 1-for-11, and Brandon Allen is 0-for-7 with five strikeouts.
Sunday vs. Tampa Bay: LHP Derek Holland (2-1, 4.78 ERA) vs. LHP David Price (2-1, 4.20 ERA), 7:00 p.m., ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM*/ESPN
"It really doesn't matter. I'm going to come in and look and see if my name is in the lineup and if it is I'm going to go play hard and do everything I can to help this team to win. And if not, Endy Chavez or Craig Gentry will go take care of their business. We've had a lot of guys contribute this year, so everybody deserves to have a chance at some point in the postseason."
Murphy played in 11 of 16 postseason games a year ago, hitting just .185 with two extra-base hits. He was Washington's left-handed option in the lineup against right-handed pitchers. This time Murphy has left-handed competition. Endy Chavez, who hit .301 and spent much of the season well above .320, could also see time. Right-handed hitter Craig Gentry, a speedster on the bases, is also a left-field candidate.
Manager Ron Washington has said batter-pitcher matchups won't necessarily dictate who plays and who sits. The Tampa Rays have yet to announce who they will start in Friday's Game 1, but if it is a right-hander such as Jeff Niemann, Murphy, on a tear in September, is expected to get the nod with Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz being fixtures in center and right field, respectively.
And, if the Rays go with a lefty like rookie Matt Moore, Washington will have to choose between the experience of Murphy or trusting Gentry.
Murphy is the first to admit his frustration at a slow first half of the season. He's come on strong down the stretch, posting a .351 batting average in September with six doubles and four home runs. He drove in 15 of his 46 RBIs this month. Murphy played in 25 games in September to 18 for Chavez. Of course, Cruz's absence with a hamstring injury that limited him to just 11 games this month, and most of those at DH, helped to get Murphy on the field more and spur his hot spurt.
"It felt great to contribute. If anything, I could care less about stats. I care about wins. As a man and as a professional athlete, you take pride in what you do and when you have a group of 25 guys that are contributing every single day, you want to be on the same page and you want to do the same thing. So, I guess it hurt a little bit early in the year when we're winning all these games and everybody's doing the best they can and didn't feel like I was playing up to the way I knew I could play.
"So, the last month and half, it just feels great to contribute."
|Rangers lefty Derek Holland dishes on the final night of the season, looks ahead to the Rays and more.
"It really draws a lot out of you," Maddon said of the emotional swings of this last month's surge that culminated with the extra-inning clincher.
He means the coaching staff, too. Maddon headed straight from the team bus to a news conference and said he still had yet to name a starting pitcher for Game 1.
"It's difficult to bring everything together from the conclusion of last night to this current moment," Maddon said. "We celebrated. As we should have. We had some benign conversations on how to shape the roster. We're not even there yet."
Maddon said James Shields, who beat the Rangers twice recently, is not being considered to start Game 1. Shields would be ready to pitch Game 2 and with two off days he could pitch Game 5, if one is necessary. The Rays' options for Game 1 would appear to start with big right-hander Jeff Niemann, right-hander Wade Davis or even lefty rookie Matt Moore, who has 9.1 innings of major-league service under his belt.
"He's in that conversation at this point," Maddon said of Moore, a highly touted prospect. "Several guys are in that situation."
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Rangers scored early runs off Jeff Niemann and C.J. Wilson kept the Rays' bats quiet in a complete-game, 8-0 shutout. The victory means the Rangers will stay at least 2.5 games ahead of the Angels (and a 1/2 game up on the Tigers in the battle for home-field advantage in the first round). Some quick thoughts (more to come from the clubhouse soon):
* The shutout was the Rangers' 18th of the season, a club record. That broke the previous mark set in 1977.
* It was the first complete-game shutout of Wilson's professional career and he needed 117 pitches (73 strikes) to get it. He allowed just five hits and walked three, but no Rays batter got to third base.
* Wilson also matched his career-high with 15 wins. He's the sixth Rangers pitcher to have at least two consecutive seasons of 15 wins, though all were right-handers. He joins Charlie Hough, Ferguson Jenkins, Gaylord Perry, Kevin Brown and Aaron Sele.
* Wilson didn't show any issues with his index finger. He was missing high early in the game but got the ball down and went to work as his offense got him nice run support. His sinker and slider were particularly good, and he worked both sides of the plate well.
* Double plays helped Wilson. He got four of them, pushing his season total to 28, just one behind Matt Harrison and three back of the club record, which is 30 (Rick Honeycutt and Kevin Brown). Wilson got one to end the first, another to end the fourth and one in the fifth. He also got one to end the game, a 6-4-3 variety on his final pitch.
* Ian Kinsler led off the game with a home run to left field. It was a no-doubter and his seventh leadoff homer of the season, tying his career-high set in 2009. Kinsler got ahead in the count 3-1 and got a fastball he could slug. It was in a similar spot to the one he hit late in Game 5 of the ALDS last October in Tampa.
* David Murphy's fly ball to right went over the padding but came back in the field of play. Murphy wasn't sure it was a homer, so he was sprinting around the bases. It wasn't technically a home run trot in that he didn't know if it was gone. But as far as motoring around the bases for a homer, Larry Granillio of the Tater Trot Tracker at Baseball Prospectus (with an assist from ESPN Stats & Info) timed Murphy at 16.61 seconds, which would put him in the top-10 for rounding the bases on a HR that wasn't technically inside the park. Of course, he would have been running a lot slower had he known it was out.
* Murphy then had a two-run double to right-center in the third to get the Rangers a 5-0 lead and another double to drive in his fourth run of the game in the fifth. He singled in the eighth to go 4-for-4. It was his second four-hit game of the road trip. He continues to fill in so impressively for Nelson Cruz. He is now 16-for-32 (.500) with 10 RBIs and a two HRs in eight games with Cruz has been out with the strained hamstring.
* Mitch Moreland made a nice defensive play in the second, running to shallow right field to get a blooper. He caught the ball with two on base and one out, so it was a big play that helped prevent a Rays rally.
* Josh Hamilton had an RBI double to right-center in the third and then tried to go to third on a ground ball by Michael Young. He slid into third and was thrown out. He walked to the Rangers dugout and pointed to his lower back. Trainer Jamie Reed talked with him, but Hamilton came back on the field for the bottom of the inning.
* Hamilton seemed OK in the fifth when he hit a double to left center. He scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Adrian Beltre.
* Beltre extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a single in the third. It's the fifth-longest active streak in the majors.
* It wasn't a great night for Moreland on his birthday. He was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. Moreland didn't look comfortable at the plate. He is 7-for-50 (.140) in his last 14 games.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The rubber game of the Rangers’ three-game series against Tampa Bay matches lefty C.J. Wilson against Rays right-hander Jeff Niemann. First pitch is at 7:05 tonight at Rangers Ballpark. Here’s a look at the matchup:
Wilson (13-6, 3.29 ERA): The 30-year-old native Californian is scheduled to make his 29th start, pitching on regular four-day rest… Wilson left pitches up in the zone in his last start against the Angels on Saturday and gave up a career-high four home runs while taking a loss. He was charged with six earned runs on 10 hits in five innings of an 8-4 defeat… Nevertheless, August was a great month for Wilson, who held opponents to 28 hits in 31 1/3 innings and had an 2.87 ERA… Left-handed hitters are hitting 27 points higher than right-handed hitters against Wilson this season… Wilson had a no-decision in his only start against the Rays this season, allowing three earned runs and two home runs in 6 2/3 innings at Tropicana Field… Lifetime against the Rays, he is 2-0 with a 2.88 ERA… In 14 starts at Rangers Ballpark this season, Wilson is 6-2 with a 4.08 ERA… The Rangers are 16-12 in his 28 starts.
Niemann (9-5, 3.46 ERA): The 6-foot-9, 260-pounder from Houston and Rice University has an intimidating mound presence… The 28-year-old will be making his 19th start of the season on four days rest… Niemann has been a workhorse since returning from the DL on June 20, but had his 11-game streak of pitching at least seven innings stopped in his last start at Toronto when he pitched 6 1/3 innings in a 6-5 win over the Blue Jays on Saturday… He is 8-1 with a 2.57 ERA in 12 starts since coming of the DL… Niemann allowed four runs in 7 1/3 innings in a loss to Justin Verlander and the Tigers on Aug. 22 for his first defeat since May 4… This will be his first appearance against the Rangers this season… In three career innings against Texas at Rangers Ballpark, he has no decisions and a 9.00 ERA.
Hitters: Mike Napoli has 10 at-bats against Niemann, most among the Rangers, and is batting .500 with six RBIs and a home run… Michael Young and David Murphy are each 1-for-2… Kelly Shoppach is 1-for-1 against Wilson, Sean Rodriguez is 1-for-2 with an RBI, Dallas Baptist University product Ben Zobrist is 2-for-6 and Johnny Damon is 2-for-8.
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Play Podcast Rangers GM Jon Daniels joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to tackle the tough questions after his team failed to advance to the playoffs.
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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.
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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.