Rangers Survive Late Innings To Beat Rays 4-3, Take Game 3

The Rangers surged ahead with a four-run seventh, and though the Rays mounted a comeback against Mike Adams, Neftali Feliz shut the door to win 4-3 and take Game 3 of the ALDS.

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Rays Vs. Rangers, Game 3: Highlights From The Live Blog

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.

• Rob Neyer's ode to Casey Kotchman's fielding

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:

Kotchmancatch

• 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:

Andre Ethier
J.J. Hardy
Jay Bruce
Hideki Matsui
Nick Swisher
Dan Uggla
Wade Boggs
Ron Cey
Willie Horton
Joe Torre
Ted Williams

• 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

 Priceout

• 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. 

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Rangers vs. Rays: Texas Survives Late Charge To Take 2-1 Series Lead In Game 3 Of ALDS

The Texas Rangers remained unbeaten in playoff games at Tropicana Field, beating David Price and the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-3

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Rays vs. Rangers: Tampa Bay Down 4-3 In Ninth

Joel Peralta did his job.

Entering the ninth, Peralta was assigned the chore of keeping his Rays within one run of the Rangers.

Peralta retired the first two batters he faced on pop flies, but Ian Kinsler battled and battled until he shot a grounder past third base for a double. But Peralta got Elvis Andrus to end the half-inning.

Now they're heading to the bottom of the ninth. Neftali Feliz, who ended an eighth-inning threat by striking out Ben Zobrist, is scheduled to face the bottom of Tampa Bay's lineup: Casey Kotchman, Sean Rodriguez and Kelly Shoppach.

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Rays vs. Rangers: Desmond Jennings' Second HR Makes It 4-3

Mike Adams took over for the Texas Rangers in the eighth inning, which wasn't big news since that's what Adams does. He's been the best eighth-inning guy for a while. Or maybe the best guy, period.

Buck Martinez in the booth, before Adams had thrown a pitch:

Mike Adams has been the best relief pitcher in baseball over the last three seasons. He is first in ERA, he is first in WHIP, he is first in holds, he is an eighth-inning, shutdown guy.  He comes in and, generally, has 1-2-3 innings and never allows the offense to get back into the game ... The slider is his money pitch.

There's been just one Achilles' heel, though: Home Runs.

Adams has pitched wonderfully since joining the Rangers in late July, except for one blot: in 26 innings, he gave up three home runs. That's not a dramatic number; rather, it's been the only small chink in Adams' considerable armor.

Desmond Jennings led off the eighth for Tampa Bay. Adams left a pitch over the plate. Jennings, for the second time today, launched it over the left-field fence for a solo home run. Where his first homer had put the Rays ahead by one run, his second pulled them to within one run.

One non-Achilles' heel? Walks. Adams doesn't walk hitters. Well, that's not literally true. Adams was a little off his game in September, and did walk one hitter.

After giving up that homer to Jennings, Adams walked three in a row, and the bases weren't loaded only because the first walker, B.J. Upton, got busted trying to steal second base. Adams is out, and Mike Gonzalez is in...

 

Still in the bottom of the eighth, it's Rangers 4, Rays 3.

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Rays vs. Rangers: The Legend Grounds Out, Threat Squandered

Things were looking bleak for the Tampa Bay nine that afternoon.

They'd just given up four runs in a big game, and entered the bottom of the seventh trailing by three.

They'd collected just one hit against the enemy hurler, all afternoon.

But then a new hurler came in, and he was an old hurler, older than Tampa Bay's starting infield put together.

And the old hurler got a quick out, but then he gave up a single, and another single, and then another to load the bases.

Also, this happened:

Rodriguezfouldrop

Providence!

But the old hurler had been replaced by a new hurler, a young hurler, and the new young hurler retired one pinch-hitter and then another, both on ground balls to second that Steve Sax couldn't have muffed.

The Tampa Bays did score a run, but they wanted and probably needed to do so much better.

Ranger 4, Rays 2

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Evan Longoria And Colby Lewis

It's well known around these internet parts that hitter vs. pitcher stats are mostly useless.

Specific batter vs pitcher data is probably the worst use of statistics in the entire sport.
Oct 03 via TweetDeckFavoriteRetweetReply


Is that hyperbole? Probably not. Hitter vs. pitcher stats combine small samples with a context-free sludge of numbers, and they're often treated as being really, really meaningful by broadcasters and managers.

So when you see these stats:

PA AB H BB SO BA OBP SLG
Colby Lewis 6 5 0 1 2 .000 .167 .000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/3/2011.

You're right to think, pffffft. So what? Six at-bats are six at-bats. Totally meaningless.

Then you watch Longoria against Lewis:


And the numbers make a lot more sense. The guy just isn't picking up Lewis at all, and he struck out three times in his three at-bats against Lewis on Monday. So the splits just might have predictive power after all. All that's needed is a little context, such as visual evidence that Longoria flails at Colby Lewis pitches like a drunken Chuck Carr.

Now Lewis is out of the game, even though he allowed only one hit over six innings. Longoria has to be thrilled.

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Rays vs. Rangers: Josh Hamilton's 2-Run Single Makes It 4-1

Hey, it could have been worse.

Not a lot worse, though. Entering the seventh inning, the Rays held a 1-0 lead on the strength of David Price's pitching and Desmond Jennings' solo homer. But Mike Napoli made it 2-1 Rangers with a two-run home run. And after Craig Gentry's two-out single -- on Price's 102nd pitch -- Joe Maddon summoned rookie right-hander Brandon Gomes, who proceeded to walk Ian Kinsler on four pitches and Elvis Andrus on five, loading the bases. There's every reason to think Gomes wasn't trying to walk Kinsler and Andrus, but he did and Josh Hamilton was next and Maddon replaced Gomes with left-hander J.P. Howell.

Howell wasn't trying to give up a two-run single to Hamilton, but that's what he did and Maddon replaced Howell with right-hander Juan Cruz, who escaped the jam without doing anything, as catcher John Jaso faked a throw to second base and Andrus took the bait, getting caught in an inning-ending rundown between third and home.

But the carnage was plenty, as the Rays went from being ahead by one run to being down by three, and now there's not anything that Joe Maddon can do about it, unless he can convince Evan Longoria to stop striking out...

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A Question For Ron Washington, Regarding Mitch Moreland

Rangers 2, Rays 1 after 6½ innings.

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.

Now, he almost certainly can't be that terrible against left-handers. He's got just one home run in 145 plate appearances, and presumably if given more chances he'll run into a few fastballs, hit a few of them over the fence.

Ah, but there's another home run, which doesn't show up in Moreland's splits but which Ron Washington most certainly recalls: last October, in the second inning of Game 3 of the World Series, Moreland hit a three-run homer off Giants left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, without which the Rangers would not have won Game 3 of the World Series.

But as clutch as that home run was, you might think it would be more than balanced in Washington's mind by those darned career splits, and also by ...

Reason 2: Moreland's really struggled for some months now. On the strength of his performance in the second half of last season, and then into the postseason, Moreland was given regular work early this season, and he performed well.

That was then. After the All-Star Game, Moreland batted .241/.300/.367, which would be fine if he played shortstop.

Washington probably knows more about Mitch Moreland and David Price than we ever will. It's just hard to figure what, especially after Moreland went hitless in three at-bats against Price today.

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Rangers vs. Rays: Mike Napoli Two-Run Blast Gives Rangers 2-1 Lead

Mike Napoli has been an absolute monster this year. He's known for being the trinket that was traded for the treasure that is Vernon Wells, but he should probably be better known for being a monster:


G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2011 - Mike Napoli 113 369 72 118 25 0 30 75 58 85 4 2 .320 .414 .631


Ggrrrrrrarwrrr. 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.


With Mike Adams and Neftali Feliz lurking, it'll be tough for the Rays to make that run up.

Even better for Napoli and the Rangers: The home run set up a chain of events that got David Price out of the game. Price wasn't perfect, but he was pretty danged good. His first win against the Rangers will have to wait.

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Rangers vs. Rays: Rangers Still Can't Score Off David Price

It took them six innings, but the Texas Rangers finally got a runner to third base.

Not to home, though, and so the Rays still lead 1-0 on Desmond Jennings' fourth-inning home run.

The sixth began promisingly for the Rangers when speedy Craig Gentry drew a leadoff walk.

Next, Ian Kinsler struck out looking on a pitch that was probably three or four inches inside. This displeased him, but there is no recourse in such a situation, and eventually he returned to his mates in the dugout, where commiseration ensued.

Elvis Andrus hit a high chopper over the mound that Ben Zobrist approached, but could not handle. They hadn't done much, but suddenly the Rangers had a couple of runners on base with one out, and the meaty part of their lineup coming up.

Josh Hamilton, most notably.

But Hamilton hit another high chopper, and this time Price took control:

Priceout

Did you notice that Hamilton slowed down at the end, instead of plowing through Price for sport? That was nice of him. He seems like a nice guy, regardless of all the tattoos.

Hamilton's grounder did push the runners to second and third, but that made little difference when Michael Young sent an easy grounder to shortstop.

Which is why it's still Rays 1, Rangers 0 into the bottom of the sixth inning.

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Rangers vs. Rays: Desmond Jennings Solo Shot Gives Tampa 1-0 Lead

If Desmond Jennings were up for the entire season, he could have been runaway AL Rookie of the Year. But the Rays (wink wink) kept him in the minors (wink wink) so he could (wink wink) work on some things. It certainly didn't have anything with service time and not starting his arbitration clock. Wink.

And that decision almost cost the Rays way more money than it might have saved them. Missing out on playoff revenue would be a big deal for any team, much less the Rays, and for a few months they were messing around with Sam Fuld and Justin Ruggiano.

Now Jennings is up, the Rays did make the playoffs, and now they get to enjoy an extra year of Desmond Jennings before he can't catch a line drive that costs the Red Sox a playoff berth. Jennings also hit a shot over the left-field fence to break up a scoreless game, and the Rays have a 1-0 lead through four innings.

Vwrbsseanjtx6f70ag6efsfxo1_400_medium

 

Everything's coming up Joe Maddon.

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Don't Laugh: Joe Maddon Might Try It

This game is scoreless through three-and-a-half innings. If this had been Tampa Bay's defensive alignment through the first two innings, it would probably still be scoreless:

First_medium
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Rays vs. Rangers: David Price Shaky, But Pitching Shutout

In David Price's last start, which the Rays sort of needed to win, he gave up six runs in four innings (they won anyway).

Was that game just a blip? In Price's five other September starts, he struck out 31 batters, walked 10, and gave up only two home runs in 30 innings. So there didn't seem any particular reason to worry about Price.

And here in Game 3, he's pitched three shutout innings so far.

It's not been easy, though. In the first inning, he gave up a hot grounder through the middle that nearly took off one of his toes, and a line drive ticketed for right field until Mr. Fantastic did this:

Kotchmancatch

In the second inning, Mike Napoli singled and (?) stole second base. Napoli's not as slow as you might guess, but he's not exactly John Stearns out there, either.

In the third inning, Ian Kinsler hit a fly ball to the wall in center field, where B.J. Upton took control.

So Price hasn't been scored upon, or roughed up. But he's not been at his best through three frames.

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Mike Napoli Is Just 1,381 Stolen Bases Behind Rickey Henderson

Mike Napoli stole second base off David Price in the second inning. 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:

Andre Ethier
J.J. Hardy
Jay Bruce
Hideki Matsui
Nick Swisher
Dan Uggla
Wade Boggs
Ron Cey
Willie Horton
Joe Torre
Ted Williams

Maybe some of those names surprise you more than others, but I think Nick Swisher surprises me most of all. The guy has played 1,000 innings in center field over his career. That should come with an automatic 25 steals.

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Casey Kotchman's Infinite UZR

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!

Ian Kinsler led off against David Price, and lifted a high pop into foul ground. Kotchman, fighting the low wall beyond first base, three enemy fans and the shadows thrown by seven catwalks, made the play.

After Elvis Andrus singled up the middle -- nothing even Kotchman could do about that -- Josh Hamilton hit a ground ball toward the Kotchman, who snagged the ball and then had some options ...

Throw to second and force the speedy Andrus?

Sprint to first base and hog all the glory for himself?

Wait for his pitcher to arrive and do the easy and democratic thing?

Hold on to the ball, because as long as you've got the ball, nobody can hit a home run?

Upon pondering these and presumably a dozen other possibilities, Kotchman flipped the baseball to Price, whose foot beat Hamilton's foot by the splittest of seconds. Just as Kotchman planned.

Michael Young was next, and foolishly attempted to line a single into right field. He might as well have tried to hit the ball past Plastic Man; Kotchman blew a bubble, popped it, and started another bubble while going airborne to make what is, for him, the routine play.

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Colby Lewis Is The Same, Different

Last year, Colby Lewis was something of a story, coming out of nowhere to surprise the American League, even though he had great success in Japan. He struck out almost a batter per inning, and was a huge part of the Rangers' run to the AL Pennant in 2010.

This year, though, he's struggled a bit, adding nearly a full run to his ERA in a season where overall scoring was down. His strikeout rate was down, but his K/BB ratio remained exactly the same as in 2010 (3.02).

So the reason for the ERA spike? Oh, those dingers. 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.

 

Split G PA HR
Home 15 394 22
Away 17 444 13
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/3/2011.

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. 

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Rangers Manager Ron Washington Posts Game 3 Lineup vs. Rays

With several hours to go before game time, Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington has revealed the lineup that will take the field to face Tampa Bay’s David Price in Game 3:

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

The Rangers are facing a lefthander for the second time in this series, but the lineup is a bit different than the one Washington used against Matt Moore in Game 1. Mitch Moreland plays first base today, instead of Michael Young. Young, in turn, moves to DH, where Yorvit Torrealba served on Friday.

The only Rangers hitter who did anything against Moore and two Rays relievers on Friday was Josh Hamilton, who had a single and a double. The Rangers have hit Price well in the past, as Grant Brisbee wrote earlier today, but Price’s control has been outstanding in postseason play.

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Rangers vs. Rays: Tampa Bay's Lineup For Game Three

The Rays employ their rightie-mashing lineup, such as it is, which means Matt Joyce moves from "de facto pitcher" to "cleanup hitter":

Desmond Jennings - LF
B.J. Upton - CF
Evan Longoria - 3B
Matt Joyce - RF
Johnny Damon - DH
Ben Zobrist - 2B
Casey Kotchman - 1B
John Jaso - C
Reid Brignac - SS

While Joyce was hitting in the #9 spot against lefties because of wicked platoon splits and inspired Joe Maddon chicanery, Reid Brignac is hitting there because he's as close as it gets to a pitcher hitting in the AL.


G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2011 - Reid Brignac 92 249 18 48 4 0 1 15 10 63 3 1 .193 .227 .221

 

 

Player AB BA OBP SLG OPS
Cliff Lee 75 .200 .208 .307 .514
Clayton Kershaw 71 .225 .267 .225 .492
Yovani Gallardo 68 .221 .254 .324 .577
Daniel Hudson 65 .277 .309 .369 .678
Joe Saunders 61 .197 .222 .213 .435
Mike Leake 55 .200 .214 .236 .451
Ryan Vogelsong 53 .226 .268 .245 .513
Livan Hernandez 46 .217 .217 .239 .457
Chris Volstad 46 .196 .213 .239 .452
Vance Worley 45 .222 .239 .244 .484
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/3/2011.


But none of those guys can play a mean shortstop, which Brignac can, so he gets the start.

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Rangers vs. Rays, ALDS Game 3 Preview: Time, TV Schedule And More

David Price and Colby Lewis pitch for the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers, respectably, in Game 3 of the 2011 ALDS.

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