A fifth-inning rain storm caused two hours of delay time in Saturday’s ALCS opener at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, stripping C.J. Wilson of his command and forcing Justin Verlander from the game. A battle of aces turned into a battle of bullpens. And while both relief corps posted zeroes, it was the fellas from Texas who came away victorious.
Entering to a bases-loaded mess following the second of two rain-induced pauses, Rangers lefty Mike Gonzalez got Tigers catcher Alex Avila to hit into a two-out groundout to end the fifth inning.
Alexi Ogando, a highly effective starter during the regular season, then took over in the top of the sixth. He delivered two scoreless innings, fanning three Tigers and yielding no hits. Darren Oliver followed and retired both batters he faced before giving way to trade-deadline acquisition Mike Adams, who got Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta to chase a fall-off-the-cliff breaking ball to end any potential threat in the eighth.
Neftali Feliz closed it all out in the top of the ninth, at one point hitting 101 mph on FOX’s radar gun.
The Rangers battled the rain and put trust in their bullpen on the way to a 3-2 ALCS Game 1 victory.
The Red Sox and Mariners left nothing on the table Friday night, going head-to-head in a series opener that eventually ended 14-10 in the Sox’ favor. Led by Steven Wright and Wade LeBlanc — neither of whom made it past the fifth inning — the teams combined for 34 hits and four home runs, including two moonshots from Seattle’s Nelson Cruz and a five-run rally that gave Boston the edge in the seventh.
In the sixth inning, however, the Red Sox were still scrambling to make up a four-run deficit. Left fielder J.D. Martinez cut it in half with one swing, pouncing on an 89.5-mph fastball from Seattle right-hander Nick Vincent and posting it to dead center field for a two-run shot.
The 427-foot blast was Martinez’s 23rd of the season, tying Mike Trout for the most home runs in the league this year. While he still has a ways to go before eclipsing the career-best 45-HR mark he set in 2017, he’s off to a strong start this season: Entering Friday’s game, the 30-year-old slugger was batting .315/.386/.623 with a 1.009 OPS and AL-leading 55 RBI in 308 PA. He finished Friday’s game 4-for-5 with five RBI, just one triple shy of hitting for the cycle.
Heading into the All-Star Break, both Martinez and Trout still have some competition for the home run title. Jose Ramirez is sitting at 22 homers, while Nelson Cruz and Khris Davis are tied at 20 apiece.