Mike Napoli, Nelson Cruz

Rangers tie series by topping Rays 8-6 in ALDS Game 2

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Aided by a big miscue from home-plate umpire Kerwin Danley, the Rangers overcame a 3-0 deficit and defeated the Rays 8-6 on Saturday to even the ALDS at one game apiece.

The Rays got it started early again tonight, picking up a run in the first on Kelly Shoppach’s bases-loaded walk and then two more on Matt Joyce’s homer in the fourth. Unfortunately for them, James Shields suddenly lost his command in the bottom of the fourth, hitting two batters and giving up three runs to tie the game.  That’s when Danley stepped in.

With runners on first and second and one out, David Murphy hit a little nubber that spun off the plate and rolled into fair territory. Shoppach picked it up and threw to first for what appeared to be the second out of the inning. However, Danley had signaled foul ball right away, making it a dead ball and taking the out off the board.

Shields went on to throw a wild pitch to advance the runners and then another one on strike three.  Murphy reached first and the run scored, giving the Rangers a 4-3 lead. They’d add one more on a Mitch Moreland groundout before Shields got out of the inning.

The Rangers managed to keep hitting afterwards. Ian Kinsler had a two-run double in the sixth to make it 7-3. Evan Longoria came back with a three-run homer off Koji Uehara in the seventh, to bring the Rays within a run, but the Rangers scored an insurance run when Mitch Moreland homered in the eighth. Neftali Feliz protected the two-run lead in the ninth.

Game 3 in the best-of-five series is scheduled for Monday in St. Pete.  It should be advantage Rays with Colby Lewis facing David Price, but Price gave up six runs — five earned — in four innings in what looked like a must-win start Wednesday against the Yankees. Price is also 0-3 with a 5.67 ERA in six career regular-season starts against the Rangers, and he lost to them twice in the ALDS last year, amassing a 4.97 ERA.

Notes

– The Rays caught a big break in the first when Ben Zobrist wasn’t sent to cover on a hit and run with Kinsler on first and Elvis Andrus at the plate. Standing his ground, Zobrist was barely able to glove a soft liner from Andrus that seemed destined for right field. Instead of runners on first and third with none out, Shields suddenly had the bases empty with two outs and was on his way to an easy inning.

– If anyone from the group of Reid Brignac, Felipe Lopez, Justin Ruggiano and Brandon Guyer had stepped up this year, the left-handed-hitting Joyce, who hit the two-run homer in the fourth, probably wouldn’t have been playing tonight. The Rays use to play Ben Zobrist in right field against lefties, but he’s needed in the infield on a full-time basis now, and Ruggiano and Guyer failed to step up and become legitimate platoon candidates for Joyce. That’s why Joyce, who hit .217 with three homers in 92 at-bats against lefties this season, was in there batting ninth.

– “Big Game” James has allowed 11 runs over 9 1/3 innings in his last two postseason starts, both against the Rangers. He’s now 2-4 with a 4.98 ERA lifetime in October.

– As soon as Derek Holland departed having allowed three runs — one earned — in five innings, the Rangers had it scripted that they’d go with Alexi Ogando, Uehara, Mike Adams and Feliz for an inning apiece.  Three of the four did their jobs, but Uehara never got an out before allowing Longoria’s homer and exiting the game. It makes one wonder if he’ll be skipped next time around. Darren Oliver, who replaced Uehara tonight and retired all three batters he faced in the seventh, could combine with Ogando to work the sixth and seventh innings next time a similar situation crops up.

– Napoli went 2-for-4 with two RBI to break out of his postseason drought.  Since hitting two homers and knocking in four runs in Game 3 of the 2008 ALDS against Boston, he was 2-for-19. Before tonight, that two-homer performance was the only time in 15 postseason appearances that he had driven in a run.

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

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Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.

Braves sign reliever Carlos Torres

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As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.

Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.

If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

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Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.