Tuesday, October 12, 2010

ALDS Game 5: Rangers at Rays

Photo courtesy Tampa Bay Rays
Tropicana Field hosts a rare do-or-die postseason game tonight.
We tend to think of these all-or-nothing, winner-goes-on, loser-goes home postseason games as commonplace. But really, they don't happen all that often. In fact, tonight's decisive game in St. Petersburg is only the fifth such showdown (Game 5 in a five-game series or Game 7 in a seven-game series) in the last six years.

And few do-or-die games have boasted a pitching matchup like this: Cliff Lee vs. David Price, a rematch of Game 1. Lee dominated that start, striking out 10 while walking none. Price was less effective, giving up four earned runs and nine hits in 6 2/3 innings, though he did strike out eight without issuing a walk. He'll also be pitching at home, where he was 9-2 with a sparkling 1.96 ERA this season.

Of course, all hands will be on deck for this game, so don't be surprised to see anyone come out of the bullpen. Should be fun. I'll share some thoughts along the way, so check back during the game and please share your own thoughts in the comments section...

Where: Tropicana Field
Gametime: 8:07 p.m.
TV: TBS Radio: WTEM-980 AM
Weather: Dome
SS Elvis Andrus
3B Michael Young
CF Josh Hamilton
DH Vladimir Guerrero
LF Nelson Cruz
2B Ian Kinsler
RF Jeff Francoeur
C Bengie Molina
1B Mitch Moreland
(P Cliff Lee)

SS Jason Bartlett
RF Ben Zobrist
LF Carl Crawford
3B Evan Longoria
1B Carlos Pena
CF B.J. Upton
DH Dan Johnson
C Kelly Shoppach
2B Sean Rodriguez
(P David Price)
8:30 p.m. -- Didn't take long for the first run to cross the plate in this anticipated pitchers' duel, thanks to some incredible hustle from Elvis Andrus. Standing on second base with one out in the top of the first, Andrus took off on David Price's pitch to Josh Hamilton, who tapped a grounder to the right side of the infield. While the Rays were busy recording that easy out, Andrus just kept running and wound up scoring without even drawing a throw. Impressive baserunning there from the Rangers' leadoff man, who has given his team an early 1-0 lead.

9:15 p.m. --  Kind of a ragged start to this game. There have been seven combined hits already through three innings but only one run a piece. And the Rays only got that run after a terrible throw from Josh Hamilton that was allegedly supposed to be aimed at the plate but was closer to the first-base dugout than anything. That ill-placed throw could have really haunted the Rangers because it put runners on second and third with one out. But then Jason Bartlett got caught straying too far off third on a comebacker and was DOA. Wasted opportunity there for Tampa Bay to keep things going against Lee. No telling how many more chances they'll get. We're tied 1-1 headed to the fourth.

9:35 p.m. -- Two encouraging signs for the Rangers: 1) Nelson Cruz got away with poor baserunning, first failing to take third on that drive off the center-field wall, then stealing third when he probably shouldn't have even attempted it and winding up scoring after Kelly Shoppach's throw sailed into left field. That put Texas up 2-1. 2) Cliff Lee seems to have found his groove. Just cruised through the bottom of the fourth, striking out the side with an assortment of nasty pitches. You just get the sense that Tampa Bay missed its opportunity to pounce on Lee and is going to regret it.

10:14 p.m. -- Another Texas run on aggressive baserunning, this time from Vladimir Guerrero, who scored from second on a potential double play grounder. Now, there appears to be some question whether the Rays actually turned that double play (tough to tell from the replay whether David Price's foot was on first base when he caught the ball). Either way, the Rangers have taken a 3-1 lead and Lee is cruising as they head to the seventh.

10:34 p.m. -- Chance there for the Rays in the seventh after B.J. Upton stole second. But Shoppach popped out and was heartily booed by the crowd, then Lee struck out Rodriguez to end the inning. With Texas up 3-1 after seven, I'm thinking Lee's done for the night. Look for Game 2 starter C.J. Wilson to figure into the final six outs of the game.

10:53 p.m. -- Guess I spoke too soon. The way Lee was cruising along, why would Ron Washington pull him? Good thing he didn't, because Lee just carved his way through the eighth. He once again has 10 strikeouts and no walks. Get this: In the history of postseason baseball, there have been only eight games in which a starting pitcher struck out 10 and walked none. Lee was the starting pitcher for four of those. Incredible. Rays down to their final three outs, Rangers up 3-1.

10:58 p.m. -- I think we're no longer going to have to hear about any MLB franchises that have never won a postseason series anymore. Ian Kinsler hammers a pitch from Rafael Soriano to left for a two-run homer and puts Texas up 5-1. Totally in control at this point.

11:03 p.m. -- And Cliff Lee is back out to pitch the ninth. Wow.

11:08 p.m. -- What a masterpiece. Lee goes the distance, strikes out 11, retires 13 of the last 14 batters he faces and sends the Rangers to the ALCS for the first time. Final score: 5-1. So it's New York-Texas in the ALCS, beginning Friday night in Arlington. And how about the pitching we're going to see in both remaining series: Lee, Halladay, Oswalt, Hamels, Sabathia, Lincecum ... who's the slam-dunk No. 1 out of that pack? Honestly, you can make a case for just about any of them. I sense plenty more low-scoring games in the next round. Can't wait.


Anonymous said...

I like the how aggressive the Rangers were on the bases. While many are penciling in a Phils-Yanks Series, both LCS have the potential to go at least 6 games. Should be very entertaining and a dream for fans of good pitching. I've enjoyed your postseason updates. Thanks...

Josh said...

Cliff Lee is absolutely incredible. It's too bad there is absolutely no way we could convince him to come here short of massively overpaying him (to the tune of 10 years $200m) because a 1-2-3 of Strasburg-Lee-Zimmermann would be one of the best ever.

Sec3MySofa said...

Nice that you're enthusiastic, Josh. Wouldn't even be the best in their own division, but keep a good thought.

Tcostant said...

Just to think how close the Yankees were to getting Lee at the trade deadline, I hope Texas beats the Yanks and goes to the WS!

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

Yanks in five. Rangers, just happy to be there, will win only Lee's start. Going to 5 in ALDS really, really hurts Texas.

Anonymous said...

I don't know that it (going to Game 5) hurts Texas that much, because they were only going to get two games from Lee anyway (I believe that all of his postseason starts are on regular rest). Even last year in the WS the Phillies only started Lee in Games 1 and 5. I do note that he got knocked around a little bit the second start although the Phillies won anyway to send it back to NY for the finale. So the Rangers were going to have to win two games w/o Lee to advance regardless. It will be interesting to see how Ron Washington sets up his rotation for the series.

John C.

Josh said...

Firstly, the Phillies' rotation [i]is[/i] one of the best ever. Secondly, Strasburg's peripherals while he was year were better than Halladay's. Thirdly, Cliff Lee is better than either Oswalt or Hamels. The only real question is whether Zimmermann can be as dominant as either of the latter two, and IMO he is certainly capable of that--but even if he isn't, the rotation still wins out by virtue of the superiority of the first two starters as long as he can stay close.

Sec3MySofa said...

Indeed, the Phillies top 3 are excellent pitchers, getting focused at the right time. "Ever" is a long time.

Strasburg's "peripherals" were what, half a dozen games before he blew up? Durability is relevant, and actual success is always better than fantasy success, or potential. Every time. "Maybe"'s a baby.

Zimmermann may have it in him to be a pretty good major league starter someday, maybe someday soon; we'll see. Until then, he's a promising project, that's all. That's quite a lot, actually, but until it exists, it doesn't exist.

Maybe by 2013 or 2014, when SS is healed and strong, if he heals and gets stronger, Lee will still be healthy himself, and as good as he is now. Maybe Zimmermann will be, too. It could happen. The Phillies are unlikely to sit on their hands in the meantime, but who knows where they'll be by then? One thing is absolutely certain: there will be dominating starters available to them between now and then, and they might sign the right ones, like they seem to have done this year.

But all this hypothetical stuff is just that: an academic exercise for the hot stove, because Cliff Lee is NOT going to pitch for Washington in my lifetime. He just isn't.

The Nationals could trade Nyjer Morgan for Halladay, too -- I mean, it would be legal -- but that's just not going to happen.

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