It was the second smallest crowd of the year at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Less than 30,000 on hand to see the opener of the possible playoff preview between the Texas Rangers and the Tampa Bay Rays.
They say it was because Monday was the first day of school in the DFW area. That’s why the crowd was so small. Probably so, but come on, folks. They usually don’t give homework on the first day of school! Let the kids come to the ballpark. Check the pitching match-up: David Price vs. Derek Holland!
Funny thing was, in the end it was a pitcher’s duel… between the two bullpens. Neither starter was particularly effective, though Holland was credited with a quality start, thanks to two of the five runs he gave up being unearned.
Tampa jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first when sure-handed Elvis Andrus had two brain farts. The first was ruled an error. The second kept Elvis from finishing off a double play. Thanks to those two bonehead plays, Evan Longoria got to bat in the first and hit a 3-2 pitch off the left field foul pole for a 2-run home run.
In the bottom of the first, David Price would retire the side in order. On five pitches. FIVE FREAKING PITCHES!!! Little did anyone know that was actually the Rangers game plan for the night. It ended up working to perfection.
Apparently the scouting staff determined that Price’s best pitches are his first pitches of an at bat, so Texas swung early often. In the second, it resulted in back to back solo shots by Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz. Another run would be tacked on to make it a 3-2 Rangers lead after two.
Tampa would tie it in the top of the third on a triple and a sac fly, but the Rangers would score two of their own in the bottom of the third on an Adrian Beltre double. The Rays would tie it up in the top of the 5th on a single-triple-single combination. Texas would come through in the bottom of the inning again, this time on a Beltre single, chasing Price. The reigning AL PLayer of the Week ended up with 4 RBI on a HR, double and single. It was the third time in a week Beltre has gone to the plate in the late innings needing just one hit for the cycle. One time he succeeded. The two times he needed a triple to complete it, he didn’t do it (to be fair, Kyle Farnsworth intenionally unintentionally walked Beltre in the 7th to rob him of the cycle chance).
Price ended up going just 4+ innings, yet 77% of his pitches were strikes. Most of the strikes just weren’t missing Rangers bats. All six runs were charged to Price.
Both teams’ bullpens have reputations for being lights out and that was certainly on display Monday night. Neither bullpen gave up a hit. The Rays had four innings of hitless relief, the Rangers 3. The Rays bullpen did allow a couple baserunners, one on the Beltre walk, the other two on errors.
If Texas was playing like it was a playoff game, it was evident with the bullpen. The 7th, 8th and 9th innings were handled by Alexi Ogando, Mike Adams and Joe Nathan. Nathan never looked nastier in picking up his 26th save. In fact, all three Rangers relievers were nasty and all three ended with an identical picthing line: 1 IP, 0 Hits, 0 Runs, 0 Walks, 2 Strikeouts.
If Monday night was any indication, the rest of this series is going to be intense.
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