SB Nation Tampa Bay
Stay connected for news and updates Follow @sbntampabay
Like us to subscribe
The Tampa Bay Rays lost to the Texas Rangers in fairly dramatic fashion 4-3 on Monday, and are now trailing 2-1 in their 2011 American League Division Series. They have another game in Tampa tonight before the series (hopefully) moves back to Texas for a series settling fifth game. It's not the best spot to be in for sure, but as Martin Fennelley of the Tampa Tribune points out, comebacks aren't anything new for these Rays.
"We're fine. Nobody is going to panic in this clubhouse," Rays Game 3 starter David Price said. "We were down nine games in September. We were down 7-0 in the game I pitched against the Yankees. We're fine."
The Rays certainly have a history of comebacks, but it's important not to just trust that ability. The Rays need to keep that comeback mentality they had when they competed those remarkable comebacks, and not just expect it to happen because of their history. But something tells me that Joe Maddon has this team in the right mindset, and they won't just lie down to these Rangers.
The Tampa Bay Rays (1-2) could not hold their late lead, falling to the Texas Rangers (2-1) after a disastrous 7th inning. David Price started for the Rays, and though he did not collect his usual array of strikeouts, pitched rather well through 6 and 2/3 innings. He hit the biggest trouble in the seventh inning, when Adrian Beltre lined a single to left and then scored when catcher Mike Napoli powered a pitcher's pitch into the left field bleachers.
The Rays struck first when rookie outfielder Desmond Jennings slaughtered the first pitch of the 4th inning for his first homer of the post season, giving the Rays a 1-0 lead. The Rays held the lead for two innings as Price meandered in and out of trouble and Texas pitcher Colby Lewis dominated the Rays hitters, collecting 6 strikeouts and allowing only 1 hit, the Jennings homer.
Taking the lead in the top of the seventh after a wild inning, the Rangers bullpen then began leaking runs, allowing a Sean Rodriguez RBI ground out in the bottom of the seventh after Mike Gonzalez walked three batters, narrowing the Rangers lead to 4-2.
The Rays scored again in the bottom of the eighth as Desmond Jennings led off the eighth inning with a six-pitch at bat, ending in his second homer of the day, a tall fly ball to the left field bleachers. With the Rays down 4-3, B.J. Upton worked a walked off reliever Mike Adams, and then Evan Longoria, teetering on a Golden Sombrero with three strikeouts already, fell into an 0-2 early. He worked the count back to 3-2, but a Rangers pitch out caught Upton as he attempted to steal second base.
With the bases empty, Longo finally earned a one-out walk, bringing up Matt Joyce, who worked yet another 3-2 count and a walk. This brought Rangers manager Ron Washington from the dugout to bring in lefty Mike Gonzolez from the 'pen.
Gonzelez made short work of Johnny Damon, striking him out on three pitches. Washington then brought in relief ace and closer Neftali Feliz, who threw a wild pitch, but struck out Ben Zobrist after 7 pitches, ending the scoring threat.
In the bottom of the ninth, Sean Rodriguez singled an 0-2 slider into right-center with 1 out. Catcher Kelly Shoppach, who entered the game as a defensive replacement after Rodriguez pinch hit for start John Jaso, worked strong eighth-pitch at bat, but grounded a double play ball to third baseman Beltre for the final two outs of the game.
The Rays will be in action again tomorrow with game time scheduled for a 2:07 p.m. ET first pitch.
David Price, holding on to a tenuous 1-0 lead, gave up a lead off single to Adrian Beltre, then tried to power a 2-2 fastball high and tight past catcher Mike Napoli, who launched the ball for a two run homer, pushing the game in favor of the Texas, 2-1.
Price then got ground outs from Nelson Cruz and Mitch Moreland, but Craig Gentry then reached on a single up the middle of the infield. Rays manager Joe Maddon then decided to pull Price -- at 102 pitches -- in favor of rookie righty Brandon Gomes.
Price left with the Rays losing, but his performance was nonetheless strong. He pitched 6 and 2/3 innings, striking out 3, walking only 1, and allowing 2 runs on the Napoli homer. Though the homer came at a late and crucial moment in the game, credit is more due to Napoli, who somehow put wood on a pitch that is unhittable for most hitters.
Gomes came in, allowed Gentry to steal third, walked Ian Kinsler, and then walked to Elvis Andrus on five pitches. Maddon then brought in J.P. Howell to face Josh Hamilton, Gomes having recorded no outs, walking two. Hamilton promptly served a Howell slider to right for a 2-run single, giving the Rangers a 4-1 lead late.
Starter David Price, who was seen only minutes earlier receiving attention from the Tampa Bay Rays training staff, has finished 6 innings, allowing no runs on 4 singles and 1 walk, while striking out 3. The injury, an apparent fingernail problem on his index finger, did not slow Price as he mowed through the Texas Rangers hitters in the fifth inning. But then, in the sixth, Price allowed a lead-off walk to Craig Gentry and then, one out later, surrendered an infield hit to Elvis Andrus.
Price managed to coax two subsequent ground outs to end the inning, himself making an impressive play on a high chopper from Josh Hamilton. He has made only 80 pitches through the first 6 innings.
Ironically, though the Rangers are touted for their powerful lineup, they have hit 2 infield singles today and 4 singles total, while the Rays have hit 6 homers to the Rangers' 1 for the series. Hopefully the surprising narrative fail continues for the Rays and they are able to steal a series from the Rangers potent offense.
In the bottom of the sixth, shortstop Reid Brignac worked a lead-off walk from Colby Lewis, but Lewis got Desmond Jennings to fly out and B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria to strike out to end the inning. Through 6, Lewis has thrown 93 pitches for 6 strikeouts, 2 walks, and the Jennings home run that remains the only score on the board.
The Rays could not find a way on base through the first three innings, but Desmond Jennings led off the bottom of the fourth, blasting Colby Lewis's first pitch into the left field bleachers. B.J. Upton following with the Rays first walk of the day, but was left on base after Lewis struck out three straight batters.
It appears Rays starter David Price may have injured his index finger, as head trainer Ron Porterfield was seen investigating Price's finger in the dugout between innings. Price had pitched quite well through the first four innings, collecting a strikeout and a pick off while allowing no runs.
Casey Kotchman shined in the first inning as he played a major role in all three outs, catching a pop-up near the first base crowd, fielding a high grounder and wisely tossing it to Price covering first, and snaring a screaming line drive off Michael Young's bat.
The Rays and Rangers are just a few short hours away from kicking off Game 3 of the ALDS, with the series currently tied at a game apiece. Lineups for both teams have just been announced.
The Rays are hoping to gain a slight edge by stacking their lineup with left-handed hitters, as right-handed Colby Lewis features a large platoon split. Lewis’ most effective pitch is his slider, but sliders are generally most effective against same-handed batters, giving left-handed hitters an advantage.
Meanwhile, the Rangers are running out a very typical lineup for them. However, even though their lineup is heavy with right-handed hitters and Rays starter David Price is a left-handed pitcher, the platoon split may not help them too much. Tropicana Field is one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in the majors, and it especially suppresses right-handed power (decreases RH home run power by 8%). So we’ll have to see which triumphs in the end: the Rangers’ powerful lineup or Tropicana Field.
Rays lineup, from Marc Topkin:
Rangers lineup, from the Tampa Tribune:
For a look at the pitching matchup between David Price and Colby Lewis, see our game preview.
Price and Lewis matched up against each other already this season, with Lewis taking the victory despite a solid outing from Price. Both pitchers allowed just six baserunners in eight innings, yet the Rangers hung three earned runs on Price anyway. In the top of the eighth inning, Price retired the Rangers' first two hitters before falling apart. He yielded a double to Craig Gentry, the ninth man in the order, and then walked Ian Kinsler. A double-steal put men on second and third with two out, with Elvis Andrus driving in Gentry and Kinsler with a single through the right side of the infield to make the score 3-0, Texas, which would prove to be the final margin.
That game calls to mind Price's struggles against the Rangers throughout his career, a topic which Grant Brisbee of Baseball Nation investigates in great detail. Interestingly, he finds, "Texas shouldn't look at Price and see a pitcher that they've owned in the past and will own again," citing Price's improved strikeout-to-walk ratio. The upshot:
If you go by the advanced stats -- FIP and xFIP -- David Price has substantially improved since 2010. The results just haven't been there. That's similar to his history with the Rangers -- he's pitched increasingly better against them, but it's hard to tell by his W/L and ERA against them.
In Lewis, the Rays face the owner of one of baseball's best sliders, according to DRaysBay. The bad news is that Lewis' slider is the fourth-best in the American League over the last two seasons; the good news is that his other pitches are far less effective, making him a one-trick pony. Given that Lewis' command tends to improve as the game progresses, DRaysBay stresses the importance of Tampa's scoring early. Further, the left-handed-hitting Matt Joyce and Ben Zobrist need to tee off against Lewis, whose reliance on the slider makes him dramatically less effective against left-handers.
Game 3 between the Rays and Rangers is set for Monday at 5:07.
Talk about some serious gamesmanship: according to Marc Topkin from the St. Petersburg Times, Kyle Farnsworth wasn’t available in Game 2 of the ALDS. His elbow was bothering him again — he’d missed time in September with elbow inflammation — so Maddon had him sitting out in the bullpen, but didn’t announce to anyone that he was hurt or unavailable.
These sort of moves are pretty commonplace in the postseason, when you want every possible advantage you can get, and it didn’t come into play anyway as the Rays were trailing from the fourth inning on and lost to the Ranger 8-6. And thankfully, it appears as though Farnsworth has improved enough that he’ll be available for Game 3 tonight.
In other news, Joe Maddon had a press conference yesterday in preparation for today’s game. When Maddon talks, you’d better listen. This nugget is also from Marc Topkin, and he captured Maddon talking about David Price’s big game “issues” and game-planning:
After splitting the games in Dallas, the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers head back to Tropicana Field for two games that should help decide the outcome of this series. Game 3 is tonight and first pitch is scheduled for 5:07. The game can be seen on TBS.
The pitching matchup should be a good one. The Rangers will send Colby Lewis to the mound. Lewis finished the year with a 14-10 record and an ERA of 4.40 and 169 strikeouts. The Rays will send David Price to the mound, and you have to assume that he is still pretty upset about how his last start went against the Yankees in the regular season finale. This has been an offensive series thus far, but it would behoove the Rays if they could get a strong performance out of arguably their best pitcher, particularly after losing the game that James Shields pitched on Saturday.