The Tampa Bay Rays traveled to Arlington to face the Texas Rangers for the first game of the 2011 MLB playoffs, riding the high of Wednesday night's walk-off win to secure the AL Wild Card. The Rays picked up right where they left off, pounding the Rangers to take Game 1 by a 9-0 margin.
Along the way, the Baseball Nation staff live-blogged the matchup, narrating the twists and turns of Game 1. Here are a few of the highlights.
Perhaps the best moment of the game occurred before the teams took the field. The young son of Shannon Stone, the man who fell to his death at Rangers Ballpark earlier this year, threw out the first pitch to Josh Hamilton. Because it can't be watched enough, here is the video again.
Game 1 started off slowly enough, with both pitchers recording scoreless first innings. Texas starter C.J. Wilson probably had the better inning, and it may have been the best part of his night.
C.J. Wilson was arguably twice as good as Matt Moore, though, as Wilson needed only nine pitches to dispatch the Rays in order, while Moore needed 18 pitches, in part because of Josh Hamilton’s single to left field.
It was all downhill for Wilson, though. In the second, Johnny Damon broke the scoreless tie, taking Wilson deep for a two-run home run to give the Rays the early lead. Damon was batting fifth, the first of many moves Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon made that worked to near perfection.
C.J. Wilson gave up only two home runs to left-handed hitters all season.
One of those was hit by Rays right fielder Matt Joyce.
Johnny Damon hit only six home runs against left-handed pitchers all season.
With a lead in hand, Tampa Bay starter Matt Moore settled in and began to mow down the Rangers' powerful lineup. The 22-year-old rookie was short on experience, and a questionable Game 1 starter, but he delivered early and often on Friday afternoon.
Still wondering about Joe Maddon's managerial choices? How about the decision to toss Kelly Shoppach into the lineup? Shoppach turned the Rays' 3-0 lead into a six-run advantage with one swing of the bat, taking Wilson deep to center field for a three-run home run.
But for whatever reason, Joe Maddon put Shoppach in the lineup to start Game One of the NLDS. And CJ Wilson threw a pretty good pitch ... and Shoppach hit it out to dead center field for a three-run home run. The odds are now up to 2.6% that he's this year's Cody Ross.
As an aside, Shoppach's homer provided the first highlight of the night, turned in by an intrepid fan who snagged the home run in center, then promptly tossed it back.
In case you still weren't convinced about Maddon, Shoppach added a second home run -- this time of the two run variety -- to give the Rays an 8-0 lead in the fifth. So why was Shoppach batting sixth? Maddon had a hunch.
After that first home run, the TBS crew briefly interviewed Joe Maddon, who was queried about his decision to start Shoppach against Wilson. Maddon's response (paraphrased): "Shoppie's hit left-handers pretty well."
Moore cruised through the rest of his outing, striking out six and walking two while allowing just two hits in seven shutout innings. The Rangers went quietly and by the time it was all over, the Rays had a 9-0 lead in Game 1 to seize control of the seize right out of the gates.