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.
– 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.