Rangers vs. Rays: Kelly Shoppach Goes Deep ... Again?

Two things that didn't seem to go together, coming into Game 1:

Kelly Shoppach batted .176 in 2011. Kelly Shoppach batted .197 from 2009 through 2011. That's right, over three whole seasons Shoppach hasn't been over the Mendoza Line.

and

Kelly Shoppach is batting sixth -- ahead of three far superior hitters -- in the Tampa Bay Rays' Game 1 lineup today, against the Texas Rangers in their Division Series.

Well, they don't go together unless you're Kelly Shoppach. Or Joe Maddon. Or (now) anyone who roots for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Because after taking C.J. Wilson deep for a three-run homer in the third inning, Shoppach has done it again in the fifth, walloping a Wilson fastball over the left-field fence to give the Rangers an 8-0 lead.

After that first home run, the TBS crew briefly interviewed Joe Maddon, who was queried about his decision to start Shoppach against Wilson. Maddon's response (paraphrased): "Shoppie's hit left-handers pretty well."

Which he has. Shoppach's career line against lefties is .274/.373/.536, with 28 homers in 416 at-bats.

Which isn't to suggest that anyone would have predicted Shoppach's two-homer, five-RBI performance (so far) in this lid-lifter. But in case you haven't noticed already, Maddon's a pretty clever fellow.

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