Adrian Beltre hits three homers, clubs the Rangers past the Rays and into the ALCS

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Adrian Beltre hit three homers — all solo shots — to lead the Rangers past the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3.  That win makes three which puts the Rangers in the ALCS, making it there by beating the Rays in the division series for the second straight year.

For the Rays, the season ends six days after it was improbably extended. The high drama occasioned by their pursuit of the collapsing Red Sox offset by a division series that was anti-climactic in the extreme. The momentum, if you believe in such things, carried over into their Game 1 drubbing of the Rangers, but after taking a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning of game 2, they seemed to have no life left in them at all. Mike Napoli took care of them in that game and in Game 3, Beltre today.  Into the postseason with a bang, out with a whimper.

Notes:

  • Beltre was the sixth player to hit three homers in a postseason game.  Reggie Jackson, Adam Kennedy, um, some other guys, and then Beltre.  Points to whoever can name the other three.
  • Matt Harrison struck out nine in five innings. Can’t say he looked extremely dominant — it wasn’t as if he was really overpowering guys — but results is results. And strikeouts lead to big pitch counts, which is why he only went five.
  • Major kudos to Ron Washington and the Rangers front office. Last year there was a sense that Cliff Lee, Hired Gun, was everything. With Lee gone, Jon Daniels pushed a number of buttons, Nolan Ryan opened the purse strings a bit and Ron Washington made it all happen in a way that people, I don’t think, truly appreciate. Just a fantastic organization they got down in Texas.
  • Sean Rodriguez scored from second on a Casey Kotchman single in the fourth. To score he had to barrel into Mike Napoli who is, suffice it to say, is much, much bigger than Rodriguez. Napoli had the plate blocked so the collision was unavoidable, but Napoli took a forearm to the jaw and looked a bit dazed afterward. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s OK and ready to go for the ALCS.
  • Matt Moore relieved Jeremy Hellickson. Believe it or not, it was his home debut. He too gave up a homer to Beltre, but he was impressive all the same. I’ve never seen someone generate his velocity with such an easy, almost lazy delivery. The season is over, but this kid’s future is crazy-bright.
  • Evan Longoria went 1-for-11 with 6Ks in the three Texas wins.  Ouch.
  • It ended up not mattering, but Sean Rodriguez was allowed to score his third run of the game in the ninth when he walked, was allowed to reach second on defensive indifference and then scored on a Casey Kotchman single.  Why on Earth would the Rangers just ignore the runner in that situation? I’ve always hated that. That run didn’t need to score.
  • The attendance was 28,299, which wasn’t a sellout. It’s hard to sell out games at Tropicana Field to begin with, and a weekday 2PM start makes it harder, but that’s still kind of a bummer.

And with that, the Rangers play the waiting game. Do they face the Tigers following A.J. Burnett-pocalypse tonight, or does Burnett hold serve for the Yankees and force a Game 5?  Playoff baseball: it’s, like, totally awesome.

Sean Manaea pitches the first no-hitter of 2018

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Athletics southpaw Sean Manaea delivered his first career no-hitter against the Red Sox in a decisive 3-0 victory on Saturday night. Any thought of a perfect game was banished in the first at-bat, when Mookie Betts drew a leadoff six-pitch walk to open the first inning. From there, Manaea was nearly flawless, holding the Sox to four total baserunners and striking out 10 of 30 batters faced — a career record.

Manaea was gifted a three-run lead thanks to RBI doubles from Jed Lowrie and Stephen Piscotty and Marcus Semien‘s solo shot off of Chris Sale in the fifth inning. While the Red Sox managed to draw two walks off of Manaea, they didn’t come anywhere close to plating a run. Andrew Benintendi tried to break up the no-no in the sixth inning with an infield hit down the first base line, but strayed out of bounds and later saw his hit reversed on a call of batter interference.

Entering the ninth inning, the 26-year-old lefty was sitting at just 95 pitches through eight frames of no-hit ball. He quickly deposed Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts with a groundout and fly out, then walked Benintendi on seven pitches. Any threat the Red Sox might have posed was soon eliminated, however, as Hanley Ramirez ground into a force out to complete the no-hitter.

Manaea is the first A’s pitcher to toss a no-no since Dallas Braden’s perfect game against the Rays eight years ago. The last time the Red Sox were on the losing end of a no-hitter was also against an AL West rival, when the Mariners’ Chris Bosio clinched a 2-0 no-no on April 22, 1993. Manaea’s feat is even more outstanding given how dominant the Red Sox have looked this season: prior to Saturday’s defeat, they boasted a 17-2 record and had yet to be shut out during the regular season.