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.

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.

Orioles acquire Alec Asher from the Phillies

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The Phillies announced on Tuesday that the club traded pitcher Alec Asher to the Orioles for a player to be named later.

Asher, 25, was the victim of a roster crunch. He was not going to make the 25-man roster and the starting rotation at Triple-A Lehigh Valley was already full. The Phillies acquired him from the Rangers in the July 2015 Cole Hamels trade.

Asher had good results in 27 2/3 innings in the big leagues last year, posting a 2.28 ERA with a 13/4 K/BB ratio. While it didn’t show in those stats, the right-hander sometimes struggles with command and he doesn’t miss bats often enough to make up for it. The Orioles, however, are happy to add some pitching depth.