Mike Napoli

Rangers edge Rays 4-3, take 2-1 lead in ALDS

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The Rangers ended David Price’s shutout bid with four runs in the top of the seventh and held on to beat the Rays 4-3 on Monday and take a 2-1 lead in the ALDS.

Colby Lewis was the winning pitcher for Texas after allowing just one hit — a Desmond Jennings homer on the first pitch of the fourth — over six innings. Including the 2010 postseason, Lewis is 4-0 with a 2.86 ERA lifetime against the Rays.

Price, who carried a 1-0 lead into the seventh, took the loss. Adrian Beltre started the Rangers’ rally with a single, and Mike Napoli followed with a homer.  Price bounced back to get two outs, but he was pulled after a Craig Gentry single. Unfortunately, the Rays’ pen really let them down from there.  Brandon Gomes walked both hitters he faced, throwing just one strike in the process, and J.P. Howell gave up a two-run single to Josh Hamilton to make it 4-1 Rangers.

The Rays tried to strike back in the bottom of the inning, putting together three straight singles off Darren Oliver with one out.  Alexi Ogando then took over with the bases loaded and limited the Rays to just one run after getting a pair of groundouts.  Still, not giving up, the Rays pulled within a run in the eighth on Jennings’ second homer off Mike Adams and threatened further before Mike Gonzalez and closer Neftali Feliz shut down the rally. Feliz stayed in and pitched a scoreless ninth to end it.

Game 4 of the ALDS will be played Tuesday in St. Pete. The Rays will start rookie Jeremy Hellickson with their backs against the wall, while the Rangers will counter with left-hander Matt Harrison.

Notes

The exceptional diving stab Casey Kotchman made to save a run in the first was a play that quite a few first basemen would have made, but only because most of them would have been positioned closer to the line to start with. I imagine Adrian Gonzalez is going to get the Gold Glove, but Kotchman is right there with him as the AL’s best at first.

– Price’s handling of Hamilton’s one-hopper in the sixth might have been an even better play. He didn’t have much time to think about it, but he figured out quickly that he was going to be the only fielder with a chance of turning that ball into an out. If he were a bit slower, it would have been bases loaded with one out for the Rangers. As it was, there were two outs and Price was able to get out of the jam.

ESPN pointed out that Lewis struck out both Matt Joyce and Johnny Damon after falling behind in the count 3-0 today. He had just two such strikeouts in 200 1/3 innings during the regular season.

– Prior to Napoli’s homer in the seventh, Price had thrown over to first base three times in the at-bat, even though Beltre had one steal on the season and wasn’t looking like any sort of threat to add to it. Price went on to throw a wild pitch that allowed Beltre to advance and then the lousy pitch that Napoli knocked over the wall in left-center. Why he allowed himself to get so distracted by Beltre is something he’ll have a long time to think about if the Rays fail to advance.

– It was quite a surprise that the Rays picked Howell over Cesar Ramos as the second lefty in their pen, considering that Howell had a 6.16 ERA in 30 2/3 innings and Ramos came in at 3.92 in 43 2/3 innings. Ramos was also the busier of the two down the stretch, giving up two runs in 8 2/3 innings in September (two runs in 4 2/3 innings for Howell). The two were similarly effective against lefties, but Ramos was a whole lot better against righties, something that probably didn’t matter much to the Rays given that neither was likely to face a righty in a close game this month. Anyway, Howell got his first chance tonight and didn’t do his job; he allowed the two-run single to Hamilton, the only batter he faced.

– Note to Oliver: you work for maybe 10 minutes a day two or three times per week. It’s the postseason. Your first move on any ball hit to the right side should be to break toward first, whether you think you’ll be needed or not.

That Oliver didn’t break gave Damon a free hit in the bottom of the seventh, starting a Rays’ rally that could have resulted in more than one run.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.