The Rangers took control of their best-of-five series with the Rays, with Colby Lewis outdueling David Price and Mike Napoli serving as the hero of the day with a go-ahead home run in the seventh inning. The Rangers now have two chances to advance to the ALCS, starting with a 2:00 p.m. matinee Tuesday at Tropicana Field.
While the Rangers and Rays were battling on the field, Baseball Nation's writers were analyzing the action. Here are the highlights from Monday's live blog:
• Colby Lewis, a surprise stud in 2010, took a step back this year. How come? The long ball, as Grant Brisbee explained:
He lead the AL with 35 home runs allowed. It looks like Ameriquest Field killed him this year, even though the park left him alone last year.
Twenty-two of those 35 homers came in his home park ... but he wasn't pitching at home Monday:
Lewis in Tropicana Field, though, seems like a great fit. The Trop is stealthily one of the best pitchers' parks in baseball, rivaling even Petco National Park in San Diego. Lewis got the Rays 1-2-3 in the first inning, looking pretty good in the process.
According to FanGraphs, Casey Kotchman saved 1.6 runs while playing first base this season, in 146 games.
I'm afraid I must question their methods, because in just the first inning of Game 3, Kotchman saved seven runs! If you project those skills over 146 games, his Ultimate Zone Rating would be 832!
Hyperbole? Watch this and you tell me:
• Several innings before hitting the go-ahead home run, Napoli stole a base in the second. This surprised Brisbee:
This was stunning because I've always figured Napoli ran the bases like Bengie Molina, but without all of that veteran caginess. Turns out, though, that Napoli has 25 stolen bases in his regular-season career. He's a list of players who have fewer than 25 stolen bases in their careers:
• Pitchers are usually measured in pitch speed, not foot speed, but David Price employed the latter when fielding a Josh Hamilton chopper in the sixth inning:
• In honor of Napoli's seventh-inning home run, Brisbee reflected on his .320-30-75 season:
As Buck Martinez put it in the broadcast, "With the Angels ... he always felt like he was fighting for his at-bats." Indeed. Now he's relaxed and hitting the snot out of the ball.
And he not only helped the Rangers to a division title by simultaneously helping his new team and decimating his old team, but he's helping them in the playoffs. Napoli crushed a home run to left-center to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning.
• Even after the Rangers secured the lead, Neyer couldn't help but second-guess Ron Washington's lineup decision:
Question for Ron Washington: "Why did Mitch Moreland start at first base in Game 3?"
There seemed to be two good reasons to not start Mitch Moreland in Game 3.
Reason 1: David Price is a left-handed pitcher, and Mitch Moreland has struggled in his career against left-handed pitchers. Really struggled. In 145 plate appearances against lefties, Moreland's got a .229/.299/.282 line.
• Have you ever seen Evan Longoria take a cut against Colby Lewis? Because you should. It's comical how a hitter that dangerous can just flail at certain pitchers.
• Buck Martinez seriously jinxed Mike Adams. Either that, or Desmond Jennings is simply talented. Then again, those statements don't have to be mutually exclusive. Jennings' second bomb of the day gave Tampa Bay hope, but they couldn't close the gap.