Mike Napoli

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


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.


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.

ALDS, Game 2: Rangers vs. Blue Jays lineups

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Here are the Rangers and Blue Jays lineups for Game 2 of the ALDS in Toronto:

CF Delino DeShields
RF Shin-Soo Choo
DH Prince Fielder
1B Mitch Moreland
SS Elvis Andrus
LF Josh Hamilton
2B Rougned Odor
C Chris Gimenez
3B Hanser Alberto

SP Cole Hamels

Adrian Beltre is out of the starting lineup after leaving Game 1 with what appeared to be a significant back injury, leaving Hanser Alberto to fill in at third base. With a right-hander on the mound Mike Napoli goes to the bench and Mitch Moreland starts at first base, and manager Jeff Banister also switched up the batting order a bit without Beltre in the No. 3 spot. Robinson Chirinos homered in Game 1, but he takes a seat in Game 2 so that Chris Gimenez can catch Cole Hamels.

LF Ben Revere
3B Josh Donaldson
RF Jose Bautista
DH Edwin Encarnacion
SS Troy Tulowitzki
1B Chris Colabello
C Russell Martin
2B Ryan Goins
CF Kevin Pillar

SP Marcus Stroman

Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista are both in the starting lineup after leaving Game 1 with injuries, which is particularly good news in Donaldson’s case because he suffered a potentially serious head injury sliding into second base. Toronto’s only change from Game 1 is subbing Chris Colabello for Justin Smoak at first base with a left-hander on the mound. There’s right-handed power all over the place, so Hamels’ changeup may be the key to the entire game.

Royals will bring back Yordano Ventura to start Game 4

Yordano Ventura
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Thursday night’s rain delay cut Yordano Ventura‘s start short after just two innings, as the Royals opted to turn to reliever Chris Young instead of bringing the 24-year-old right-hander back out to the mound following the delay.

One benefit to that is what manager Ned Yost has decided to do now, which is use Ventura to start Game 4 on Monday. Had he thrown, say, 102 pitches instead of 42 pitches Ventura likely would have started Game 5, forcing the Royals to go four starters deep in their ALDS rotation.

Ventura struggled before the delay Monday, allowing three runs in two innings. However, he finished the regular season by going 7-1 with a 2.38 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 68 innings over his final 11 starts, which was enough to convince Yost he was the right pitcher to start Game 1 rather than trade deadline pickup Johnny Cueto.

Playoff Reset: Four games in one day!

Cole Hamels

Oh baby.

There’s baseball from noon to midnight today, with a pair of Game 2s in the American League and a pair of Game 1s in the National League.

Tons of great starting pitchers–including the best in the world and a trio of big-name trade deadline acquisitions–and we’ll find out if a home team can actually win a game after starting the playoffs 0-4.

The Game: Texas Rangers vs. Toronto Blue Jays
The Time: 12:45 PM Eastern
The Place: Rogers Centre, Toronto
The Channel: MLB Network
The Starters: Cole Hamels vs. Marcus Stroman
The Upshot: Stroman coming back from what was deemed a season-ending knee injury in spring training to start Game 2 of the ALDS is a helluva story and the Blue Jays need him to come up big after David Price failed to do his part in Game 1. Yovani Gallardo somehow wriggled out of trouble against Toronto’s scary lineup, but as a left-hander Hamels has an even tougher assignment versus the never-ending right-handed power. Assuming it’s all in the lineup, of course. There are big health question marks for both sides, as Adrian Beltre, Josh Donaldson, and Jose Bautista all exited Game 1 with injuries and their respective statuses could swing the balance of power in the series.

The Game: Houston Astros vs. Kansas City Royals
The Time: 3:45 PM Eastern
The Place: Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City
The Channel: FOX Sports 1
The Starters: Scott Kazmir vs. Johnny Cueto
The Upshot: Two headline-grabbing trade deadline pickups with a lot to prove, as Kazmir and Cueto both struggled for their new teams. Cueto was bumped back to Game 2 after being acquired to front the Royals’ rotation and there was some speculation that Kazmir might not even have a spot in the ALDS rotation. Kansas City losing Game 1 last night and Houston having Dallas Keuchel waiting in the wings for Game 3 puts a ton of pressure on Cueto’s shoulders. Generally one of the toughest pitchers to homer against, he allowed 10 homers in 13 starts for the Royals and the Astros’ power-packed lineup will put him to the test all afternoon. Can the defending AL champs get off the mat quickly or will they head to Houston in need of a win to keep the season alive?

The Game: Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals
The Time: 6:45 PM Eastern
The Place: Busch Stadium, St. Louis
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: Jon Lester vs. John Lackey
The Upshot: Former Red Sox teammates Lester and Lackey square off in Game 1 of the first ever playoff series between two of the biggest rivals in baseball, with the Cubs fresh off their Wild Card game triumph over the Pirates and the Cardinals coming off an MLB-high 100 wins. Yadier Molina‘s ability to play through a thumb injury will be key for the Cardinals and it’ll also be interesting to see how much faith manager Mike Matheny has in Adam Wainwright to get late-inning outs as a reliever after returning from a torn Achilles’ tendon.

The Game: New York Mets vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Time: 9:45 PM Eastern
The Place: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: Jacob deGrom vs. Clayton Kershaw
The Upshot: Quite a way to finish an entire day of baseball, as the Mets go looking for their first playoff win since 2006 and Kershaw tries to cement his legacy as an all-time great by dominating in the playoffs like he does in the regular season. And don’t overlook deGrom, because last year’s Rookie of the Year winner has a 2.61 ERA and 349 strikeouts in 331 innings since debuting last May. Among all starters with at least 300 innings during the past two seasons Kershaw ranks first in ERA and deGrom ranks fourth, with Jake Arrieta and Zack Greinke in the 2-3 slots. This is a speculator pitching matchup.