Posted on: October 3, 2011 8:59 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 12:51 am

Instant Reaction: Rangers 4, Rays 3


By Evan Brunell

WP: Colby Lewis

LP: David Price

SV: Neftali Feliz

HR: TEX - Mike Napoli | TB - Desmond Jennings (2)

Series: Rangers lead 2-1 in best-of-5

Hero: Colby Lewis didn't get much in the way of run support until his night was done, but he kept Texas close enough that a four-run explosion in the top of the seventh allowed the Rangers to take the lead and later win the game. That was on the strength of a one-hitter through six innings, punching out six while walking two. He allowed just one run, throwing 62 of 93 pitches for strikes. Lewis' performance the last two postseasons have been nothing short of impressive. As CBSSports.com's Daniel Knobler tweets, "So Colby Lewis, career ERA 4.99, now owns a 1.67 postseason ERA (6 starts)."

Goat: Texas had zero runs until the seventh, then Mike Napoli banged a two-run homer to take the lead in the game. Not ideal for Tampa, but not terrible, as long as they didn't allow any more runs to cross the plate. Except David Price, after getting two quick outs following the blast, gave up a single to Craig Gentry. That led to Brandon Gomes entering the game for the Rays, as manager Joe Maddon hoped he could retire Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus. That didn't happen, as the rookie earns the goat label by giving up walks to each while allowing Gentry to steal his way from first to third. J.P. Howell then relieved, allowing a two-run single by Josh Hamilton before the inning concluded with a 4-1 Rays deficit.

Next: 10/4 at Tampa Bay, 2:07 p.m. ET. Matt Harrison (14-9, 3.39) vs. Jeremy Hellickson (13-10, 2.95)

More postseason coverage: Postseason schedule | Rangers-Rays series2011 playoffs

Video: Rangers manager Ron Washington discusses his team's Game 3 win.

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Posted on: October 1, 2011 10:47 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 10:49 pm

Shields implodes in fourth as Rays fall


By Evan Brunell

James Shields was among the best pitchers in baseball all year, and entered Saturday having posted a 2.82 ERA on the season. He also had the honor of being the first pitcher since Roger Clemens in 1992 to record 11 complete games and four shutouts in a season, but it was all for naught on Saturday. Shields was rocked for seven runs in five-plus innings, with the big blow coming in a five-run fourth.

Shields was spot-on for much of the game, whiffing six batters in all and issuing zero walks, but imploded in the fourth inning, which was complicated by home plate umpire Kerwin Danley's blown call. Danley wasn't biting on calling the low strike, which led to some close calls and forced Shields to elevate his pitches right into the heart of the strike zone. But he began the fourth with a surprising loss of control, plunking Elvis Andrus with a pitch.

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Josh Hamilton and Michael Young then both singled to load the bases. Shields then plunked yet another batter, this time Adrian Beltre. That forced in a run and got Rangers fans going, who had so far been silenced by Shields and staring at a 3-0 hole after Derek Holland began the game with his own jitters. Shields was able to strike out Nelson Cruz, but then came the blown call by Kerwin Danley, which was enough to land Danley as the goat of the game. David Murphy hit a ball straight down at home plate and Danley called it foul before the play was even over. The ball bounced fair, allowing Kelly Shoppach to pounce on it and throw Murphy out.. except the play had already been ruled dead. Murphy went on to strike out, but it was in the process of Shields throwing a wild pitch, so Murphy reached while Beltre scored. A RBI groundout by Mitch Moreland followed before Shields finally got to walk off the mound after inducing a flyout by Ian Kinsler.

It looked like Shields was getting back on track with a clean fifth inning, but two consecutive singles to open the inning sent Shields to the showers. Texas would go on to score twice in the inning, both runs charged to the righty. It was certainly a surprising performance by Shields, who began the game crisp but later unraveled at the seams.

Shields has been here before. Last season, he faced the Rangers in Game 2 of the ALDS as well, and served up four runs in 4 1/3 innings. In that game, Shields' big inning came in the fifth when he allowed a three-run homer to Michael Young and later an Ian Kinsler RBI grounder before his night ended.

Shields lasted longer than he did in 2010, but unfortunately the end result was the same: An ALDS Game 2 loss.

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Posted on: October 1, 2011 10:36 pm
Edited on: October 2, 2011 12:19 am

Instant Reaction: Rangers 8, Rays 6

By Evan Brunell

ALDS Game 2: Rangers 8, Rays 6

WP: Derek Holland

LP: James Shields

S: Neftali Feliz

HR: TB - Evan Longoria, Matt Joyce | TEX - Mitch Moreland

Series: Rays 1, Rangers 1 in best-of-5

Hero: It was a rather balanced offensive attack for the Rangers, but Mitch Moreland deserves the honors here. Texas jumped out ahead thanks to a five-run fourth inning and looked to be wrapping up the game in the seventh, ahead by a 7-3 score. However, Evan Longoria changed things by blasting a three-run homer and pulling Tampa Bay within one. It was a tight ballgame again, but Moreland brought down the anxiety level in Texas by cranking a homer for a much-needed insurance run in the bottom of the eighth. Moreland also had a RBI groundout to cap the scoring in the fourth and ended the night with two RBI.

Goat: Home-plate umpire Kerwin Danley may have changed the outcome of the game and series as a whole when he jumped the gun in the fourth inning. With James Shields struggling, two runs in and runners on second and third, the righty really needed an out to stamp out the fire. He almost registered the second out of the inning when Kelly Shoppach pounced on a dribbler in front of home plate and easily threw out David Murphy -- or he would have, had Danley not called the ball foul already. The ball had come off the bat straight down in foul territory but bounced into fair territory, which means it should have counted. Murphy would go on to strike out, but reached on a wild pitch that scored another run. One more would cross before it was all over, and the Rangers' five-run inning set the tone for the rest of the game. No one's saying the Rays would have won without that miscue -- after all, the game was tied at that point and Shields was imploding -- but to make that kind of error with the stakes as high as they are is inexcusable. An extra couple seconds would have made the difference. You don't need to call a ball foul that fast, especially when it's at home plate. Most umpires -- most competent ones -- move out from their stance and attempt to get a visual on the ball from the side before calling it fair or foul. Danley just didn't bother.

Update: Joe Maddon reported that Danley's case was that Murphy's bat hit the ball a second time. (@jasoncollette)

More postseason coverage: Postseason schedule | Rangers-Rays series | 2011 playoffs

Video: Ian Kinsler, Mike Napoli talk about the win

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Posted on: October 1, 2011 8:29 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 10:45 pm

Jittery Holland puts Rangers in Game 2 hole

By Evan Brunell

Last season, Derek Holland was asked to play an important part of the Rangers' run to the World Series, but gave up three runs in 4 2/3 relief innings against the Rays before stymieing the Yankees in the ALCS, then getting crushed against the Giants in two appearances. You could tell that while Holland had loads of potential, he was having trouble putting it all together on a national stage.

It's much the same Saturday in ALDS Game 2, as Holland has coughed up three runs to the Rays through four innings. Only one of those runs was earned, but Holland is still to blame for the other two runs scoring.

Holland started the game by loading the bases in the first inning and issuing a bases-loaded walk, coming unglued after B.J. Upton followed Desmond Jennings with a double. You could actually see Holland's body language change, and his pitches changed from crisp and around the zone to someone trying to force-feed the ball into a small space and instead throwing obvious balls. The skittishness continued into the second when Jennings doubled to left field with two out, hitting the chalk. A dejected Holland unfurled a wild pitch to send Jennings to second, then threw three straight balls to B.J. Upton on a 0-2 count before finally inducing a flyout. Through two innings, the lefty threw 51 pitches.

The third finally saw Holland's first clean inning of the game, but his inconsistency reared his head again in the fourth. After seemingly finding a groove and recording the first two outs, Holland pounced on a dribbler by Casey Kotchman and threw to first. Seeing how Holland didn't set his feet and how he tried to gear up the throw, it was no surprise to see the ball fly low and skip under first baseman Mitch Moreland's glove. Matt Joyce then made Holland pay with a towering shot to right field to lift Tampa to a 3-0 score after the top fourth.

As mentioned earlier, Holland has loads of potential. In 32 starts, he posted a 2.95 ERA on the season over 198 innings, punching out 162 and walking 67. In his last 15 starts, his ERA was 2.77. The 24-year-old was clearly on the rise, delivering the potential many saw in him for years. Unfortunately, Holland seems to wilt under pressure, but does show signs of eventually putting it all together.

The Rangers may yet be able to bail Holland out, as the club has loaded the bases with no out against James Shields. One run has already come in on a hit by pitch, Shields' second of the inning.

Click here to follow the action live on CBSSports.com's GameTracker.

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Posted on: October 1, 2011 4:31 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 10:46 pm

ALDS Game 2: Rangers play catch-up against Rays


By Evan Brunell

Rays at Rangers, 7:07 p.m. ET, Rangers Ballpark, TNT

Rays Rangers
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Desmond Jennings LF 1 Ian Kinsler 2B
2 B.J. Upton  CF 2 Elvis Andrus  SS
3 Evan Longoria  3B 3 Josh Hamilton  CF
4 Ben Zobrist  2B 4 Michael Young  DH
5 Johnny Damon  DH 5 Adrian Beltre  3B
6 Kelly Shoppach  C 6 Mike Napoli  C
7 Sean Rodriguez  SS 7 Nelson Cruz  RF
8 Casey Kotchman  1B 8 David Murphy  LF
9 Matt Joyce  RF 9 Mitch Moreland 1B

James Shields RHP
Derek Holland LHP


Shields vs. Rangers: Shields' calling card this year has been an innate ability to complete games, shutting the door a league-leading 11 times. One of those complete games came against Texas, fresh off facing the club five days prior and going eight strong with no runs allowed. In the complete game on Sept. 5, he allowed just one run. So that's one run in 17 innings, striking out 13. Not shabby at all. All year long, Texas has tested the patience of left-handed pitchers, but are more vulnerable against righties. To that end, Murphy and Moreland, who don't play against lefties, are in the lineup against Shields.

Holland vs. Rays: Holland closed the regular season in fine fashion, sporting a 2.77 ERA over his final 16 starts. Unfortunately, his time against the Rays left much to be desired, giving up eight runs in 12 1/3 innings, walking six. The bright spot? He whiffed 16. In his most recent start against Tampa, Holland allowed four runs (three earned) in 6 2/3 innings, setting down nine Rays by way of the K. Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton and Ben Zobrist have raked the left-hander over the coals the last three years.


Full Playoff Coverage
  • Manager Ron Washington wouldn't commit to starting Moreland against right-handed pitchers, but has slotted him into the lineup. Unfortunately for Moreland, he's only collected one hit in 11 career at-bats against Shields, striking out four times.
  • Kelly Shoppach's two homers and five RBI in Game 1 put him in exalted company. Only one other catcher has notched at least two blasts and 5 RBI in a postseason game, Johnny Bench of the Reds accomplishing the feat in Game 4 of the 1976 World Series. (Elias Sports Bureau)
  • In the 2011 ALDS, the Rays fell to the Rangers in five games, with the visiting team winning each game, a record. The trend continued Friday when Tampa took Game 1 in Texas.
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Posted on: September 30, 2011 8:52 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 10:46 pm

C.J. Wilson blasted for eight runs in Game 1


By Evan Brunell

C.J. Wilson has authored one of the more impressive two-year runs in baseball, racking up 31 wins in 67 starts after beginning his career as a reliever, and later, closer. Wilson's anchoring the rotation allowed the Rangers to survive the departure of Cliff Lee, and he made the All-Star team for the first time.

Unfortunately, Wilson couldn't come through on Friday as he was blasted for eight runs, six earned, as the Rangers dropped the opening game of the ALDS, 9-0. He authored his only clean inning to start the game, setting the Rays down 1-2-3 before Johnny Damon rattled his cage with a two-run homer in the second after plunking Ben Zobrist. Wilson couldn't stop the bleeding as Kelly Shoppach went on to score on a Matt Joyce RBI single. And just like that, the Rays had a 3-0 lead.

Shoppach reared his head again the next inning, taking Wilson deep for a three-run blast to double the lead. He also added a two-run blast in the fifth to add to Wilson's misery. And unlike Wilson in Home Improvement, there was no hiding his face on the mound. It's easily the lefty's worst postseason appearance, as he made four starts last season and delivered on three of him. The stinker on Friday now supplants his six-run outing in five innings against the Yankees to lose Game 5.

Full Playoff Coverage
Wilson played with fire, veering too close to the middle of the strike zone and got burned for it. A good indication as to whether a pitcher is effective is to look at swinging strikes. How many times did a batter go after a pitch and miss? It happened just six times on Friday among Wilson's 103 pitches for a 5.8 percentage. He was at 8.3 percent the entire year. That's a difference of about three pitches, but it was enough.

What's interesting is that Wilson got first-pitch strikes on 18 of 25 batters, but five of those were in play for either a hit or an out, and 11 others were all with the batter looking. First-pitch strikes, or even strikes in general, are common for Wilson, who registered 58.5 percent of first-pitch strikes in the season. But Friday, it was all the way up to 72 percent. That should be working in Wilson's favor, not against. And yet, it clearly worked out for Tampa, who succeeded deeper in the at-bat. If that was part of the Rays' game plan, it worked splendidly.

The Rays have been playing splendidly as of late, as they've been forced to simply to eek into the playoffs. Wilson just found out just how well.

Video: Rangers manager Ron Washington reacts to the loss.

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Posted on: September 30, 2011 8:09 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 10:46 pm

Instant Reaction: Rays 9, Rangers 0

By Evan Brunell

Rays 9, Rangers 0

WP: Matt Moore
: C.J. Wilson
: Johnny Damon, Kelly Shoppach (2)

: Rays lead 1-0

: Kelly Shoppach came out of nowhere to hammer two home runs. The five RBI were more than enough to send the Rays to victory.

: C.J. Wilson may have lost millions on his free-agent contract when he coughed up six runs (plus one unearned) in five innings to put Texas in a hole.

: Saturday, October 1, , 7:07 p.m. at Rangers Ballpark, Arlington, Texas. RHP James Shields vs. LHP Derek Holland.

More postseason coverage
: Postseason schedule | Rays-Rangers series | 2011 playoffs

Video: Rays manager Joe Maddon discusses Moore's start.

Moore discusses his big win

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Posted on: September 30, 2011 7:07 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 8:30 pm

Shoppach blasts two HR to pace Rays in Game 1


By Evan Brunell

The great thing about October is that players that you may otherwise never pay attention to can completely flip the script and become household names.

In Tampa Bay, fans are crowing Shoppach's names from the rooftops after he crushed two home runs off of C.J. Wilson to send the Rays to an intimidating 8-0 lead entering the seventh inning. This after Shoppach hit .176/.268/.339 during the regular season in 253 plate appearances. Among catchers with at least 200 PAs, Shoppach had the eighth-worst OPS at .607 out of a possible 40 backstops.

And yet, here Shoppach was, behind the plate for Game 1 of the ALDS. He quickly showed Tampa just why the team acquired him prior to the 2009 season: he has power.

Shoppach blasted a three-run home run in the third to double Tampa's lead to 6-0 as C.J. Wilson struggled out of the gate. Following the homer, it looked as if Wilson was settling down, but then Adrian Beltre threw a ball high enough that Michael Young couldn't stay on the bag, allowing Johnny Damon, whose two-run homer opened the scoring in the second, to reach. That set the stage for Shoppach, who bombed a 415-footer to extend the lead to 8-0 and leave Rangers fans shell-shocked.

Read more: Rays-Rangers series | 2011 playoffs

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com