Rangers have no answer for the Rays’ stars

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The simple fact is that things lined up better for the Rays than they did for the Rangers in Monday’s one-game playoff.

With no maneuvering necessary, the Rays had their 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner, David Price, ready to the take the mound. The Rangers, having used Yu Darvish on Sunday, were forced to turn to rookie Martin Perez or go to Matt Garza on three days’ rest. Perez on regular rest was clearly the better of those two options, and he held his own after a rocky start, but it just wasn’t enough in Tampa Bay’s 5-2 victory.

That this wasn’t the Rangers’ year had long seemed obvious. They struck out on their biggest targets last winter, losing Josh Hamilton and failing to bring in any big names to replace him. They eventually settled on Lance Berkman, but his bad knees caught up to him quickly after a fast start and he was a non-factor down the stretch. Starting pitchers Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis ended up missing the entire season with injuries. Nelson Cruz got handed a 50-game steroid suspension. The Rangers brought in Garza and Alex Rios as reinforcements and managed to battle their way into the play-in game by winning their last seven after a big September swoon. But the better team won tonight.

Led by Price, who pitched his fourth complete game of the season, and Evan Longoria, who went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer to right-center that just kept carrying and carrying, the Rays won relatively easily, if not entirely comfortably. And the game was won by the stars; to play what was essentially a postseason game with 40-man rosters is patently ridiculous, but in the end, the Rays used 13 players, the Rangers 15. The only way the game would have gone differently under Aug, 31 rules is that the Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier wouldn’t have come in for defense in the ninth.

The Rangers have another tough winter coming up. Cruz, a free agent, seemed to be welcomed back with open arms by the fanbase in his return Monday, but the front office probably won’t be so generous with its affections. Closer Joe Nathan and catcher A.J. Pierzynski could also exit in free agency. Room must be made in the starting lineup for Jurickson Profar, either by trading or shifting Ian Kinsler. Expect the Rangers to make some sort of splash in free agency, perhaps with Cuban first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu. Alternatively, they could dip back into the well that brought them Darvish and aim for fellow Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka.

The Rays will now go to Cleveland for another elimination game, this one with Alex Cobb on the mound. Again, they’ll face a rookie starter in Danny Salazar who may well battle some nerves. Cobb, meanwhile, is throwing about as well as any pitcher in the postseason. The Red Sox await the winner on Friday, and while they’ll never admit it, it’s a safe bet they’ll be rooting for Cleveland.

Red Sox even ALCS 1-1, defeat Astros 7-5 in Game 2

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Game 2 of the ALCS, held Sunday night in Boston, was a play in three parts. For the first three innings, it was a back-and-forth affair between the offenses of the Red Sox and Astros. The middle three innings involved both team’s pitching staffs calming things down. The final third of the game saw the Red Sox add insurance. Ultimately, the Red Sox went on to win 7-4 to even the ALCS at one game apiece.

The Red Sox opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning, with Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers hitting RBI singles off of a shaky Gerrit Cole. The Astros returned the salvo in the top of the second against David Price as George Springer fisted a double that just barely stayed fair down the right field line to plate two runs to tie the game. Marwin González broke the 2-2 tie in the top of the third, turning on an inside cut fastball for a two-run homer over the Green Monster. In the bottom half of the third, the Red Sox put together a rally, loading the bases with one out. After Ian Kinsler struck out, Jackie Bradley, Jr. drilled an opposite-field double off of the Monster with the carom taking left fielder Marwin González back towards the infield, allowing all three runs to score, putting the Red Sox back on top at 5-4.

Price, whose postseason woes are well-publicized, pitched better than his line indicated. He was on the hook for four runs on five hits with four walks and four strikeouts. His counterpart, Cole, went six frames, on the hook for five runs (four earned) on six hits and a pair of walks with five strikeouts.

Once Price was out of the game, Matt Barnes got four outs with nary a scrape. Ryan Brasier worked around a two-out walk in the seventh for a scoreless frame. In the bottom half of the seventh, facing Lance McCullers, Jr., Mookie Betts led off with a walk. As Benintendi struck out, Betts moved to second base on a wild pitch. During J.D. Martinez‘s at-bat, Martín Maldonado allowed a passed ball, which gave Betts the opportunity to move to third base. Martinez struck out, but Maldonado was unable to handle a pitch from reliever Josh James, so Betts ran home to score a crucial insurance run.

Rick Porcello took over in the eighth, setting down Tony Kemp, González, and Carlos Correa in 1-2-3 fashion, striking out the latter two. In the bottom half of the eighth, Betts added yet another insurance run with an RBI double to right-center.

Kimbrel has had a rough postseason thus far, giving up a run in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Yankees followed by two more in Game 4. Those struggles continued on Sunday. He got Evan Gattis to pop up, then struck out Josh Reddick. So far, so good. Unfortunately for Kimbrel, Springer poked a double to left field, then advanced to third base on a wild pitch while José Altuve batted. Altuve then ripped a single off of the Monster to bring the tying run to the plate in the form of Alex Bregman. Mercifully, for the Red Sox and their fans, Kimbrel got Bregman to fly out to Benintendi just in front of the Monster in deep left field.

David Price’s team won a postseason game he started for the first time. This was his 10th postseason start and he had been 0-8 with one no-decision.

With the ALCS tied up at one game each, the Red Sox and Astros will take Monday off to travel to Houston. Game 3 is slated for a 5:09 PM ET start on Tuesday. The Red Sox haven’t yet named a starter but the Astros will go with Dallas Keuchel.