David Price has allowed one walk in his last 19⅓ innings in his three postseason starts against the Rangers. David Price is 0-3 in those starts. Part of that is because the Rays have scored a total of five runs in those three starts. Part of it is also because the Rangers just seem to hit Price's fastball-first approach better than any other team in baseball. If it wasn't a thing already, it probably is now, as the Rangers defeated the Rays in Tampa on Monday, winning 4-3 to put the Rangers up two games to one in the ALDS
For a while it looked like Desmond Jennings' fourth-inning home run was going to mean a lot more. It was the first hit for Tampa, and it remained the only Rays hit for a while in a pitchers' duel. There were hard-hit balls on both sides, but the Rays were catching whatever the Rangers were hitting. The Rangers were doing the same when they were in the field, right up until Colby Lewis allowed a hit that couldn't be caught. The Rays were up 1-0, and David Price was ... well, not dealing, exactly. But he was pitching well, and he was David Price.
The big hit came from Mike Napoli. This means it's probably a good time to look at all the players with an OPS over 1.000 with more than 100 plate appearances in the majors this year:
Was there a better offseason acquisition by any of the playoff teams? You can make a case for Victor Martinez or that Cliff guy in Philadelphia, but considering what the Rangers had to give up (Frank Francisco, a $4 million reliever), Napoli is a fine choice. Adrian Beltre led the seventh inning off with a line drive to left field. Napoli followed that with a ball that he crushed to left-center to give Texas a 2-1 lead.
The Rangers weren't done, though. Price got two more outs before a Craig Gentry single chased him from the game. Brandon Gomes came in and promptly walked the only two hitters he faced, setting up a J.P. Howell/Josh Hamilton, lefty-on-lefty match-up. After making Hamilton look bad with a first-pitch breaking ball, Howell hung his second one, and Hamilton ripped it into right field to give the Rangers a 4-1 lead.
With Colby Lewis in control, and a bullpen that was greatly improved at the trade deadline, it looked like the Rays were doomed. But Lewis was pulled for Darren Oliver, who made his debut for the Rangers five years before the Rays even existed. Oliver allowed three straight singles to load the bases with one out, and he was pulled for Alexi Ogando, who got two ground balls and limited the damage, but the Rays pulled to within 4-2.
In the eighth, the Rangers turned to one of the most reliable relievers in baseball, Mike Adams. In order to get Adams, they had to part with two quality prospects, and they did it with this situation in mind. Mike Adams was acquired to give the Rangers a shut-down bullpen in the playoffs.
So, because this is baseball -- a sport with angry, petty gods that will also change into a swan and sleep with your spouse when you're not looking -- Adams was awful. He allowed the second homer of the day to Jennings to make the score 4-3, and he walked three hitters, which was the first time he's done that since 2005 against the Giants. In an odd twist, the Giants haven't drawn three walks in a game since then.
Upton drew the first walk, but he was cut down trying to steal. After the next two walks put runners on first or second, Mike Gonzalez came in and made Johnny Damon look silly on three pitches for a strike out. A wild pitch from Neftali Feliz that Mike Napoli couldn't handle -- there are some trade-offs in life -- set up two runners in scoring position for Ben Zobrist. A single could have put the Rays ahead, but Feliz shut the door on his way to a four-out save.
Things got a little furry for Feliz in the ninth after a Sean Rodriguez single with one out, but after Kelly Shoppach worked the count full, he grounded a ball down the third-base line ... right into the no-doubles defense for a double play to end the game.
It was a game of missed chances for the Rays, and while a lot of words will be written about Price, it was the two walks from Gomes with two outs that ultimately killed the Rays. Now, down 2-1 in the series, the Rays will have to win a game back in Arlington if they're planning to advance to the ALCS.