Rangers in trouble as Cliff Lee falls in Game 1 to Giants

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Cliff Lee was 7-0 in his first eight postseason starts.  He shut out the Yankees in the ALCS and struck out 21 Tampa Bay hitters in two ALDS starts before that.  He was supposed to be unbeatable in big games.  He was supposed to handle the Giants with ease.  He was supposed to lead the Rangers to the franchise’s first-ever World Series title.

So much for predeterminations.

The Giants tagged Lee for eight hits and seven runs on Wednesday night in San Francisco, chasing him from Game 1 of the World Series in the fifth inning while scoring an eventual 11-7 victory.  Lee displayed excellent control for most of the night, but he wasn’t able to hit the corners of the strike zone like he had in recent postseason starts and San Francisco poured on extra-base hit after extra-base hit.

Freddy Sanchez had three consecutive doubles, Juan Uribe homered and rookie phenom Buster Posey collected yet another RBI.

Sanchez hit just .292/.342/.397 during the regular season while battling shoulder and finger injuries, and he had just one extra-base hit in 40-plus postseason at-bats before Wednesday night.  And yet the second baseman played the hero.

The Giants caught heat from certain sections of the baseball universe for trotting out staff ace Tim Lincecum in Game 1 against Lee.  Some thought San Francisco should concede the loss to baseball’s best big-game pitcher and try to play catch-up on the back of “The Freak” in Game 2.  But Giants manager Bruce Bochy is smarter than that.  He’s smart enough to know that past success means very little in the game of baseball and that putting his club’s best foot forward in Game 1 made the most sense.

Bochy’s boys now have a 1-0 lead in the seven-game Fall Classic and have proven they can handle the best pitcher Texas has to offer.

Matt Cain will take the mound in Game 2 against Rangers starter C.J. Wilson and Jonathan Sanchez will go for the Giants in Game 3 against Colby Lewis.  Baseball is impossible to predict, especially during the playoffs, but it’s fact — not opinion — that San Francisco has better pitchers lined up in this series.

Cain, a righty, has not allowed a single earned run in two outings this postseason and features an active four-pitch arsenal that should minimize the danger of Texas’ sluggers.  Wilson, meanwhile, walked a league-high 93 batters during the regular season and was touched up for nine runs in 12 innings of work during the ALCS against New York.

Sanchez, a lefty, struck out 205 batters over 193.1 innings in 2010 and has been just as dominant so far in the playoffs.  Colby Lewis is a fighter with a great backstory, but he doesn’t have the raw stuff that Sanchez boasts and will enter Game 3 as a sure underdog, no matter what takes place on Thursday night in Game 2.

It’s odd to say, considering the many pundits that predicted the Rangers to ease through this 2010 World Series, but the Giants might actually be the favorite from here on out.

No, San Francisco doesn’t have the best offense.  And, no, it’s not going to be easy to win multiple games in what should be a rowdy Rangers Ballpark.  But all it takes is one Cody Ross or a few extra-base hits from a guy like Sanchez.  All it takes is one big inning for the ace-heavy Giants to put away a team like Texas — a team that relies so deeply on offensive production.

Rob Manfred says Tampa Bay must pick up pace on new stadium

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred wants Tampa Bay to work a little quicker on getting the Rays a new ballpark.

Rays Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg has been working for nearly a decade to get a new stadium for the club and signed a three-year agreement with the City of St. Petersburg early in 2016 to search for a site in the Tampa Bay area. Manfred wants that search to pick up some steam.

“I think it’s fair to say we want the process to take on a better pace moving forward,” Manfred said Wednesday night at Tropicana Field, home of the Rays since their first season in 1998.

The Rays were averaging 15,815 fans per game before Wednesday night’s contest against the Toronto Blue Jays. That is just over half the major league average of 30,470. Tropicana Field and its location have been almost universally blamed as the reason for the poor attendance.

“I’ve been pretty clear that they need a new facility here, a major league quality facility in an A-plus location,” Manfred said. “It is time to move that decision to the front burner here in Tampa.”

The matter of how a stadium would be financed has been tabled until a site is determined, but Sternberg continued to express confidence in the Tampa Bay market.

“I’ve had the opportunity to bail on it many times over the years,” he said. “I won’t say this is a slam dunk, it’s certainly not. But I think we can do something that’ll at least double our attendance. That’s a lot to ask for.”

Manfred said Major League Baseball “doesn’t have a firm timetable” for what steps to take if the Rays fail to get an agreement to build a new stadium in the Tampa Bay area, but but added that “it is a topic of discussion in the industry, the lack of progress.”

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Robinson Cano leaves game with hamstring tightness

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Bad news for the Mariners this evening: Robinson Cano left Seattle’s game against the Atlanta Braves with tightness in his left hamstring.

Cano walked off the field after legging out a double — his second of the game — in the third inning. He pulled up as he approached second base and walked off the field, accompanied by a trainer. There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury. The Mariners have a day off Thursday before opening a series at the Yankees on Friday night, so they have some time to evaluate him.

Cano is hitting .277/.377/.460 with 19 homers and 78 RBI on the year.