Sunday, October 10, 2010

ALDS Game 4: Rays at Rangers

Photo courtesy Texas Rangers
The Rays try to keep their season going today at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
There may have not been a more mysterious team in baseball this season than the Tampa Bay Rays, who wound up with the American League's best record but at times looked as weak as any club in the majors. Such is life when you rely on an all-or-nothing lineup that features plenty of pop but also plenty of strikeouts and plenty of low batting averages. So I guess we shouldn't be surprised that Tampa Bay's offense was rendered helpless in Games 1 and 2 of the ALDS, only to spring back to life yesterday in Game 3. The question now is which Rays lineup will show up today for Game 4.

This pivotal game features a matchup of both teams' No. 4 starters: Tampa Bay's Wade Davis and Texas' Tommy Hunter. For all the attention lavished upon aces and No. 2's, these series often come down to which club is better at the back end of the bullpen. If you were wondering, the Rangers didn't give any real consideration to bringing back ace Cliff Lee on short rest. He's never done it before in his career, so manager Ron Washington didn't want to try now. However, Game 2 starter C.J. Wilson is available out of the bullpen if needed.

The Rangers would love to wrap this thing up today and avoid a trip back to St. Petersburg, Fla., for a do-or-die Game 5. There are some demons to overcome, though. The Texas franchise (which of course began as the expansion Washington Senators) has never won a postseason series. It's the only franchise in the majors that can claim that. So history is on the line today in Arlington, Texas...

Where: Rangers Ballpark in Arlington
Gametime: 1:07 p.m.
TV: TBS Radio: WTNT-570 AM
Weather: Sunny, 83 degrees
C John Jaso
2B Ben Zobrist
LF Carl Crawford
3B Evan Longoria
1B Carlos Pena
RF Matt Joyce
DH Dan Johnson
CF B.J. Upton
SS Reid Brignac
(P Wade Davis)

SS Elvis Andrus
3B Michael Young
CF Josh Hamilton
DH Vladimir Guerrero
RF Nelson Cruz
2B Ian Kinsler
LF David Murphy
C Bengie Molina
1B Mitch Moreland
(P Tommy Hunter)
1:45 p.m. -- The Rays have jumped out in front early, with an assist from the Rangers' shaky defense. Carlos Pena, picking up where he left off last night, drilled what should have been a double off the center-field wall but became a triple because Josh Hamilton didn't anticipate the carom. Then Ian Kinsler flashed some very poor technique in trying to backtrack into shallow right field to catch a routine pop-up. The ball bounced off his glove, and that error allowed Pena to score the game's first run. Tampa Bay leads 1-0 in the second.

2:35 p.m. -- Well, Pena certainly is making up for his awful Game 1 performance. He drove in another run in his second at-bat today, doubling home Evan Longoria. Moments later, B.J. Upton added a double of his own, putting the Rays up 3-0 in the fourth. Long way to go still, but how bizarre would it be for the visiting team to win the first four games of this series?

2:53 p.m. -- Longoria is dealing with some quad issues, and he was laboring on the bases earlier. But who cares what the status of your leg is when you hit the ball out of the park? You can take as much time as you want circling the bases. Longoria's two-run bomb off reliever Derek Holland just made it 5-0 in the fifth and puts everyone one step closer to a do-or-die Game 5 Tuesday night back at Tropicana Field.

3:10 p.m. -- I mentioned earlier how these series often come down to which team is better at the back of the rotation. Well, advantage Tampa Bay. While Tommy Hunter labored to get through four innings, Wade Davis just finished the fifth with a flourish, striking out Vladimir Guerrero with the bases loaded. You could see how Davis and catcher John Jaso were trying to get Guerrero to chase almost every pitch out of the zone, and the strategy worked. Still 5-0 Rays as they go to the sixth.

3:53 p.m. -- Well, the Rangers are trying to claw their way back (though I don't believe they're trying to antler their way back). They scored twice in the sixth and now are into the Tampa Bay bullpen. Still, they're running out of time to rally all the way back, still trailing 5-2 in the seventh.

4:30 p.m. -- And we'll see you Tuesday night. Rays win 5-2, setting up an epic, winner-take-all, Cliff Lee-vs.-David Price Game 5 in St. Petersburg. This will be the first Game 5 in a Division Series since 2005, when the Angels beat the Yankees. Yes, it's been a while.


JaneB said...

My naive but genuine question: does winning this series impact Crawford's potential to end up on a team which still a few years away from play-off contention (like the Nats)? Or is it not at all a factor. I know many people here...or at least a few vocal people...would like Crawford for our team. Just curious.

Also, I know the Expos went to the playoffs, and that there are Expos/now Nats fans here, so I don't want to be insulting...but I don't think of our franchise as having been to the postseason, let alone winning anything there, especially at this point time.

Mark Zuckerman said...

JaneB: I don't think the outcome of this series really affects where Crawford ends up signing as a free agent. I suppose the better (and the longer) he plays, the more his stock will rise. But trust me, even if the Rays are eliminated today, this guy is going to get big-time interest from big-time suitors this winter.

And while I understand your sentiment about not accepting the Expos' history as Nats history, technically speaking, it's the same franchise. And as far as MLB is concerned, this franchise has been to the postseason once and won one series (1981).

Doc said...

Go Les Expos, now Les Nats!

natsfan1a said...

Not to horn in on your line, but I liked "claw" their way back. :-)

I was thinking Gibson on the Longoria dinger.

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