Rangers Defeat Rays 8-6, Even Series At One Game Each

The Rangers came from behind with a five-run fourth, then withstood a furious Tampa Bay rally to even their ALDS at one game apiece.

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Rangers vs. Rays: Game 2 Highlights From The Live-Blog

After dropping Game 1 to the red-hot Tampa Bay Rays, the Texas Rangers took the field in Arlington on Saturday staring down the possibility of falling into an 0-2 hole. But the Rangers rose to meet the challenge, shaking off Friday's shutout loss to even the series with an 8-6 win.

Just like Friday night, the Baseball Nation staff live-blogged the game. If you missed it, here's a few of the highlights.

In the first inning, it looked like more of the same for the Rangers. Starter Derek Holland worked himself into a bases loaded jam before walking home a run. After the early trouble, Holland settled himself, getting out of the inning with only a flesh wound as the Rays took an early 2-0 lead.

After a visit from pitching coach Mike Maddux, though, Holland got Sean Rodriguez to ground into an inning-ending fielder's choice, and disaster averted. Holland and catcher Mike Napoli seemed to be on different pages through much of the inning, and Holland threw 29 pitches.

In the bottom half of the inning, Texas probably should have made up the deficit and then some, if not for a superb play by Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist. Elvis Andrus his a liner toward right, but Zobrist made a heck of a play to clear the bases.

Except Andrus's liner didn't reach right field, because second baseman Ben Zobrist snagged the ball in the outer bit of his glove's webbing. Worse (for the Rangers), Kinsler assumed Zobrist couldn't make the play and was easily doubled off first. What should (by all right) have been two on and nobody out became, faster than you can say Jack Robinson, two out and nobody on.

The Rays escaped unharmed, and after a scoreless first, Tampa Bay headed back to the dish and took advantage of Holland's shaky control. With one on and two out, Matt Joyce tagged Holland, giving his Rays a 3-0 lead.

Holland should have been out of the inning. Instead he threw a bunch of breaking balls out of the zone to All-Star Matt Joyce, fell behind in the count, and threw a fastball down the pipe that Joyce destroyed for a two-run home run off the facade of the upper deck in right field.

Considering how Friday went, one would think Texas was all but dead at this point. But not so: the Rangers scored their first runs of the series in the fourth as James Shields got a little wild for Tampa Bay. Five runs later, Texas had the lead, and the pendulum was swinging in Rangers' favor.

Alexi Ogando came on in relief of Holland in the fifth -- a luxury for Ron Washington as Rob Neyer explained -- and the Rays bats were suddenly silent. Texas' bats, however, were not. Shields left the game in the sixth, Jake McGee took over and the Rangers kept piling on. Interestingly enough, McGee plunked a batter, which is notable for the reasons Neyer explained below.

McGee's first batter was pinch-hitter Craig Gentry, who moved the runners up with a sacrifice bunt. McGee's second batter was Mitch Moreland, who took a fastball in the middle of the back. This was notable for a couple of reasons: 1) it loaded the bases, and 2) it was the first time in 2011 that McGee had plunked a batter.

Texas added two more runs to take a 7-3 lead, and needed each of those insurance runs after Evan Longoria continued his hot-streak with a three-run home run in the seventh.

But that was as close as the Rays would get, with the Rangers tacking on one more run and closing out the game for an 8-6 win. Tampa Bay heads back to the Trop with the series tied at one, but lost out on a chance to put the Rangers in an 0-2 hole.

For more on this game, be sure to check out the rest of the live-blog and Rob Neyer's recap.

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Rangers vs. Rays: Mitch Moreland Homers For Insurance Run

Score after 8 innings: Rangers 8, Rays 6

The Rangers built a 7-6 lead over the Rays without any home runs, which seemed somewhat odd since they finished second in the American League this season with 210 round-trippers, relying all season on big (and surprising) boppers like Ian Kinsler and Mike Napoli.

Mitch Moreland changed all that in the bottom of the eighth, when he deposited one of Brandon Gomes' fastballs over the right-field fence for a solo homer. This was only the second time Moreland had faced Gomes, and the first time he performed this impressive feat of strength:


Moreland's home run tonight didn't travel as far, but it meant a lot more. Gomes did eventually escape the eighth with no more damage, but the Rangers' two-run lead looks a lot better than a one-run lead as the Rangers head into the ninth inning, looking to draw even in this best-of-five series.

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How Smart Is Ron Washington?

Score After 7½ Innings: Rangers 7, Rays 6

I'm not smart enough to know whether Ron Washington is admirably flexible or painfully indecisive.

In Game 1 of this Division Series, Craig Gentry started in left field and Josh Hamilton in center field, even though Hamilton spent most of the regular season in left field and Gentry had started just once in left.

Washington's reasoning, we were told, was that he would be playing Hamilton in center field in most of the games, and he didn't want him shifting back and forth. So he might as well play Hamilton in center field in all the games.

Well, that didn't last long. Gentry looked uncomfortable in left field in Game 1. And in Game 2, after Gentry entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the sixth inning, he took his place in center field in the seventh, with Hamilton shifting to left.

This is probably how Washington should have been doing it all along. But he seems to have realized his mistake before it cost him anything.

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Rangers vs. Rays: Evan Longoria Strikes Again, Rays Draw Close

Rangers 7, Rays 6 after Evan Longoria crushes a three-run homer in the top of the seventh inning.

Try and figure this game.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Rangers extended their lead over the Rays to 7-3 against starter James Shields and a pair of relief pitchers.

In the top of the seventh, Koji Uehara took over on the mound for the Rangers.

After coming over the Orioles in a deadline trade in late July, Uehara pitched 22 for the Rangers and issued exactly one walk. If there's one thing that he does well, it's throw strikes.

So of course he gained the advantage on leadoff man Desmond Jennings with two quick strikes ... before throwing four pitches outside the zone and walking Jennings. Next up, B.J. Upton laced a hanging splitter into the left-field corner for a double, with Jennings stopping at third. Which didn't matter when Uehara hung another splitter to Evan Longoria, who -- because this is what Evan Longoria does, when he's not playing with AK-47s or making TV commercials -- crushed the hanger into the right-field stands.

That was it for Uehara, who turned a four-run lead into a one-run lead in the space of about three minutes.

Darren Oliver, who turns 41 in a few days, trotted in from the bullpen and retired three Rays in a row to preserve the Rangers' suddenly slim lead.

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Rangers vs. Rays: Shields Knocked Out, Rangers Piling On

This season, Tampa Bay's James Shields led the American League with 11 complete games; Shields and Texas's Derek Holland co-led the American League with four shutouts.

Neither pitcher added much to their résumés Saturday night in Game 2. Holland lasted only five innings, but departed with a 5-3 lead. Shields gave up all of those five runs in the fourth inning, bounced back with a strong fifth, but got pulled with no outs in the sixth after giving up consecutive singles to Mike Napoli and Nelson Cruz.

Cruz's single came on Shields' 100th pitch, at which point Joe Maddon came out and removed Shields in favor of hard-throwing lefty Jake McGee.

McGee's first batter was pinch-hitter Craig Gentry, who moved the runners up with a sacrifice bunt. McGee's second batter was Mitch Moreland, who took a fastball in the middle of the back. This was notable for a couple of reasons: 1) it loaded the bases, and 2) it was the first time in 2011 that McGee had plunked a batter.

Which brought Maddon from the dugout again, and Juan Cruz into relieve McGee.

Ian Kinsler slapped Cruz's first pitch into right field for a two-run double, and it's beginning to look like a rout...

Cruz did retire Elvis Andrus on a checked-swing liner to first base and, after intentionally walking Josh Hamilton, struck out Michael Young on a slider to escape further damage.

Rangers 7, Rays 3

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Rangers vs. Rays: Ogando Relieves Holland In 6th

Early in this season, it looked like Alexi Ogando would -- if the Rangers qualified for the postseason -- be a big part of Ron Washington's pitching plans. But Ogando faded down the stretch, and opens this Division Series in the Texas bullpen.

While this might not be how Washington drew things up, having Ogando in the bullpen might be a luxure if, oh I don't know, a starting pitcher like Derek Holland is forced from the game after only five innings, having already thrown 93 pitches?

You know, like what happened in Game 2 tonight?

Ogando took over from Holland in the sixth, and struck out pinch-hitter John Jaso, the first batter he faced, on three pitches. Throwing more of his trademark heat, Ogando retired Sean Rodriguez on a fly to center, but Casey Kotchman followed with a double into the right-field corner. That brought up Matt Joyce, who'd already walloped a two-run homer against Holland.

Joyce continued his hot streak with a hot grounder ticketed for left field and possibly and RBI single, but first baseman Mitch Moreland snared the ball with a dive, got to his knees and threw a strike to Ogando covering first base in plenty of time to nab Joyce.

Rangers 5, Rays 3

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Rangers Roar Back Against Shields

After Matt Joyce hit a two-run home run with two outs off Derek Holland, the Rays were probably feeling like they couldn't do anything wrong in the last month. Even better, they had James Shields on the mound.

Even better for the Rangers, that is. Shields was uncharacteristically wild and hittable in the fourth, and the Rangers took the lead. Shields hit Elvis Andrus to lead off the inning, he hit Adrian Beltre to knock in the first Rangers run, and then gave up three singles, including an RBI single to Mike Napoli to tie the game at 3-3.

Shields hit five batters in all of 2011, and probably because of something they said. He's not a pitcher who usually struggles with his control. And after striking out Nelson Cruz, Shields threw a wild pitch, moving runners to second and third with one out. David Murphy struck out ... but made it to first on a wild pitch, with Beltre scoring on the play. Mitch Moreland then grounded out.

After Moreland's ground out, Shields put his head down and walked towards the dugout. The only problem? It was the second out, and a run scored on the play to make it 5-3 Rangers. Whooooops. It's possible that Shields was a little rattled.

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Rangers vs. Rays: Matt Joyce Victimizes Derek Holland

Derek Holland should have been out of the fourth inning. It seemed baby simple.

After a rocky first inning and a worrisome second inning -- during which the Rays scored just one run -- Holland cruised through the third, retiring Tampa Bay's 3-4-5 hitters in order, and needing only eight pitches. The pitcher who tied for the American League in shutouts this season seemed back on track.

Maybe he was. In the fourth, Holland quickly retired Rangers-killer Kelly Shoppach and Sean Rodriguez, before Casey Kotchman swung hard but managed only to dribble a soft chopper toward shortstop, but well within Holland's range from the mound.

Holland got to the ball in good shape, gathered it in, and fired a seed in the dirt toward first base, where Mitch Moreland couldn't make the scoop. Kotchman sprinted to second base, but that extra base seemed moot a moment later.

Holland should have been out of the inning. Instead he threw a bunch of breaking balls out of the zone to All-Star Matt Joyce, fell behind in the count, and threw a fastball down the pipe that Joyce destroyed for a two-run home run off the facade of the upper deck in right field.

Rays 3, Rangers 0

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Ben Zobrist Spins Dross Into Gold At Second Base

They say football is a game of inches.

Which it is.

So is basketball, and probably hockey. I'm pretty sure inches are important in bowling and darts, too.

Also, baseball.

In the bottom of the first inning, the Rangers trailed 1-0 but Ian Kinsler led off with a single and Elvis Andrus shot a liner toward right field. By all rights, Texas should have had a couple of runners on base with nobody out, and their best hitters due next.

Except Andrus's liner didn't reach right field, because second baseman Ben Zobrist snagged the ball in the outer bit of his glove's webbing. Worse (for the Rangers), Kinsler assumed Zobrist couldn't make the play and was easily doubled off first. What should (by all right) have been two on and nobody out became, faster than you can say Jack Robinson, two out and nobody on.

These things do happen, but they happen somewhat more often when Ben Zobrist is playing second base. Recently, John Dewan wrote this in the midst of a discussion of Fielding Bible Award candidates:

It's time to recognize Ben Zobrist, the Jack of All Positions. This year the top eight second basemen in Runs Saved are all in the AL, with Zobrist leading the pack having saved his team an estimate 18 runs defensively. Zobrist has spent the majority of his time this year at second base, continuing the excellence he has shown there previously in more limited time. He is followed closely by Howie Kendrick with 16, Ian Kinsler with 15 and Dustin Pedroia with 13.

I voted for Dustin Pedroia, but Zobrist's numbers at second base have been outstanding since the Rays first sent him there, and perhaps he's been even better this year, relieved of frequent duties elsewhere on the field.

Zobrist probably won't win a Gold Glove this season, because voters probably still think of him as a glorified utility player. But he's an excellent second baseman, and you probably don't need to convince the Texas Rangers.

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Rangers vs. Rays: Rays Take 1-0 Lead, Leave 3 Runners On

For the Texas Rangers, Game 1 went really bad really early, as the Tampa Bay Rays torched C.J. Wilson for three runs in the second inning and three more in the third, on their way to a 9-0 blowout.

The first inning of Game 2 almost went just as badly for the Rangers.

Texas starter Derek Holland got off to a good start, retiring leadoff man Desmond Jennings on a pop-up. But B.J. Upton lined a double into the left-field corner. That brought up Evan Longoria, who eventually drew a walk on a full-count curveball. In the broadcast booth, Buck Martinez praised the decision to "not give in" to Longoria with a fastball.

Well, that's great. Except you've still put a guy on base who might eventually score.

Which Longoria might well have done. Holland retired Ben Zobrist on a fly to shallow right field, but Johnny Damon followed with a grounder up the middle that Elvis Andrus snared, but could do nothing with. And with the bases loaded, Game 1 co-hero Kelly Shoppach drew a walk to force in a run.

After a visit from pitching coach Mike Maddux, though, Holland got Sean Rodriguez to ground into an inning-ending fielder's choice, and disaster averted. Holland and catcher Mike Napoli seemed to be on different pages through much of the inning, and Holland threw 29 pitches.

Fortunately for the Rangers, there's no such thing as momentum in baseball.

Is there?

Rays 1, Rangers 0

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Derek Holland Matched James Shields In Shutouts

Okay, so it's not Justin Verlander vs. CC Sabathia.

But Derek Holland and James Shields -- tonight's Game 2 starters -- both pitched four shutouts this season, which a) was more than Verlander and Sabathia, combined, and b) were good enough for the American League lead.

Of course, they got there in different ways. Shields pitched 11 complete games, and four of them were shutouts; Holland pitched four complete games, and all of them were shutouts. And Shields' 2.82 ERA obviously has it all over Holland's 3.95 mark.

Still, the point is that Holland does have excellent stuff and is capable of pitching brilliantly on a given night.

Holland's never started in the postseason; a year ago, he was sent to the bullpen in October, so Tommy Hunter could start instead. So tonight obviously marks the biggest game of his career, and if he doesn't pitch well, his club might be left in a terrible spot.

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Rangers vs. Rays: Rangers' Lineup Features Two Changes

We've got Ron Washington's lineup, which will be deployed in Game 2 against Tampa Rays ace James Shields:

1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
2. Elvis Andrus, SS
3. Josh Hamilton*, CF
4. Michael Young, DH
5. Adrian Beltre, 3B
6. Mike Napoli, C
7. Nelson Cruz, RF
8. David Murphy*, LF
9. Mitch Moreland*, 1B

Well, that's not something you see every day: middle infielders at the top of the order, left fielder and first baseman at the bottom.

Anyway, this lineup is much the same as Washington's Game 1 lineup, except with right-hander James Shields starting for the Rays, the manager has swapped in lefty-hitting Murphy and Moreland for righty-hitting Craig Gentry and Yorvit Torrealba.

All of which makes sense, even if Moreland's been struggling lately.The one guy who might have a beef is lefty-hitting outfielder Endy Chavez, but Chavez has a .293 on-base percentage with four walks since the All-Star break, and is probably best utilized as a pinch-runner or late-innings defensive replacement in left field.

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Tampa Bay Rays Lineup For Game Two

The Rays would have a pretty sweet advantage in the ALDS if they were to win Saturday's game. That's the kind of analysis you can find only on Baseball Nation. But taking the two road games would be huge for a team going back to a dank, sunless abomination that's historically given them a substantial advantage.

Here's the lineup they'll use for the second game of the ALDS:

Desmond Jennings - LF
B.J. Upton - CF
Evan Longoria - 3B
Ben Zobrist - 2B
Johnny Damon - DH
Kelly Shoppach - C
Sean Rodriguez - SS
Casey Kotchman - 1B
Matt Joyce - RF

Joyce was one of the Rays' hottest hitters in September, and he's hitting ninth. At this point, I think it's exceptionally likely that Joe Maddon is just screwing with us.

James Shields will make the start for the Rays, who probably still haven't thought about how ridiculous it is that they're in this spot at all.

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Rays Vs. Rangers, ALDS Game 2 Preview: Time, TV Schedule, Starting Pitchers And More

James Shields and Derek Holland will duel from the pitcher's mound in Game 2 of the ALDS between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Texas Rangers. The first pitch is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. ET on TBS.

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