ARLINGTON, TX: Mike Napoli #25 of the Texas Rangers hits a two-run RBI single in the fourth inning of Game Two of the American League Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
In a disjointed game that saw the Texas Rangers fall behind the Tampa Bay Rays 3-0 early before going ahead 7-3, the Rangers' bullpen came through late and Texas tied up this Division Series at one game apiece with an 8-6 victory.
Friday night in Game 1, the Rangers were down 6-0 in the third inning, thanks to C.J. Wilson's uncharacteristically shaky performance. Saturday night in Game 2, starter Derek Holland was similarly erratic, but the Rays just couldn't come up with enough big hits to take a big lead.
Still, after three-and-a-half innings the Rangers trailed 3-0, and James Shields had looked nearly unhittable.
That changed in the fourth, when Shields' control seemed to desert him. Without his control, he's nothing. And so the Texas Rangers pasted No Control Shields for five runs. There were some singles in there, but also two wild pitches and two plunked batters (which is sort of like four wild pitches, if you think about it).
Shields somehow recovered to pitch a fine fifth inning, and -- with Holland out after the fifth -- somehow outlasted his mound opponent by coming out for the bottom of the sixth. Both wound up credited with five innings, though, because Shields gave up hits to the first two Rangers he faced and got yanked from the proceedings. He also got charged with two more runs when his relief help didn't help much.
That made it 7-3.
Evan Longoria made it 7-6 just moments later with a long three-run homer of Koji Uehara, charged with all three runs. That brought in Darren Oliver from the bullpen, and Oliver pitched a perfect inning. Mike Adams pitched a perfect eighth for the Rangers, who picked up an insurance run in the bottom of the frame when Mitch Moreland crushed a Brandon Gomes fastball into the right-field stands.
Which brought up Longoria, who'd hit three huge three home runs in his last two games and eight innings.
Not this time, though: Longoria lifted a fly ball to center fielder Craig Gentry.
Which brought up Ben Zobrist, hardly a shrinking violet himself.
Not this time, though: The Rays needed a big fly, but instead they got another medium fly, which settled into Nelson Cruz's glove to end the game, and send the Division Series to St. Petersburg all tied up.