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.

Zach Davies replaces Gio Gonzalez on the Brewers roster

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Major League Baseball just announced that it has approved a roster substitution for the Milwaukee Brewers due to the ankle injury sustained by Gio Gonzalez: right-handed pitcher Zach Davies will take his place. In accordance with league rules, Gonzalez will be ineligible to return if the Brewers make it to the World Series.

That rule is designed to prevent roster gamesmanship such as having a pitcher fake an injury after he’s done being used in an effort to give a team a fresh arm in a short series. A second layer on that is an independent consult with the league, which may approve or disapprove the request based on the specific facts and circumstances of the case. In this case, Dr. Gary Green, MLB’s Medical Director, confirmed Gonzalez’s injury after communicating with the Brewers’ evaluating physician. Not that anyone can really suggest that Gonzalez was faking. The dude’s ankle went sideways.

That being said, this is a benefit to the Brewers at least for the short term. Davies did not have a fantastic season, going 2-7 with a 4.77 ERA in 13 starts and failing to make the Brewers’ initial postseason roster, but he is fresh — he hasn’t pitched since September 28 — which could prove very useful for Craig Counsell and the Brewers after last night’s 13-inning game.