Photo courtesy Tampa Bay Rays
Tropicana Field hosts a rare do-or-die postseason game tonight.
And few do-or-die games have boasted a pitching matchup like this: Cliff Lee vs. David Price, a rematch of Game 1. Lee dominated that start, striking out 10 while walking none. Price was less effective, giving up four earned runs and nine hits in 6 2/3 innings, though he did strike out eight without issuing a walk. He'll also be pitching at home, where he was 9-2 with a sparkling 1.96 ERA this season.
Of course, all hands will be on deck for this game, so don't be surprised to see anyone come out of the bullpen. Should be fun. I'll share some thoughts along the way, so check back during the game and please share your own thoughts in the comments section...
AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES — GAME 5
TEXAS RANGERS at TAMPA BAY RAYS
Gametime: 8:07 p.m.
TV: TBS Radio: WTEM-980 AM
RANGERS8:30 p.m. -- Didn't take long for the first run to cross the plate in this anticipated pitchers' duel, thanks to some incredible hustle from Elvis Andrus. Standing on second base with one out in the top of the first, Andrus took off on David Price's pitch to Josh Hamilton, who tapped a grounder to the right side of the infield. While the Rays were busy recording that easy out, Andrus just kept running and wound up scoring without even drawing a throw. Impressive baserunning there from the Rangers' leadoff man, who has given his team an early 1-0 lead.
SS Elvis Andrus
3B Michael Young
CF Josh Hamilton
DH Vladimir Guerrero
LF Nelson Cruz
2B Ian Kinsler
RF Jeff Francoeur
C Bengie Molina
1B Mitch Moreland
(P Cliff Lee)
SS Jason Bartlett
RF Ben Zobrist
LF Carl Crawford
3B Evan Longoria
1B Carlos Pena
CF B.J. Upton
DH Dan Johnson
C Kelly Shoppach
2B Sean Rodriguez
(P David Price)
9:15 p.m. -- Kind of a ragged start to this game. There have been seven combined hits already through three innings but only one run a piece. And the Rays only got that run after a terrible throw from Josh Hamilton that was allegedly supposed to be aimed at the plate but was closer to the first-base dugout than anything. That ill-placed throw could have really haunted the Rangers because it put runners on second and third with one out. But then Jason Bartlett got caught straying too far off third on a comebacker and was DOA. Wasted opportunity there for Tampa Bay to keep things going against Lee. No telling how many more chances they'll get. We're tied 1-1 headed to the fourth.
9:35 p.m. -- Two encouraging signs for the Rangers: 1) Nelson Cruz got away with poor baserunning, first failing to take third on that drive off the center-field wall, then stealing third when he probably shouldn't have even attempted it and winding up scoring after Kelly Shoppach's throw sailed into left field. That put Texas up 2-1. 2) Cliff Lee seems to have found his groove. Just cruised through the bottom of the fourth, striking out the side with an assortment of nasty pitches. You just get the sense that Tampa Bay missed its opportunity to pounce on Lee and is going to regret it.
10:14 p.m. -- Another Texas run on aggressive baserunning, this time from Vladimir Guerrero, who scored from second on a potential double play grounder. Now, there appears to be some question whether the Rays actually turned that double play (tough to tell from the replay whether David Price's foot was on first base when he caught the ball). Either way, the Rangers have taken a 3-1 lead and Lee is cruising as they head to the seventh.
10:34 p.m. -- Chance there for the Rays in the seventh after B.J. Upton stole second. But Shoppach popped out and was heartily booed by the crowd, then Lee struck out Rodriguez to end the inning. With Texas up 3-1 after seven, I'm thinking Lee's done for the night. Look for Game 2 starter C.J. Wilson to figure into the final six outs of the game.
10:53 p.m. -- Guess I spoke too soon. The way Lee was cruising along, why would Ron Washington pull him? Good thing he didn't, because Lee just carved his way through the eighth. He once again has 10 strikeouts and no walks. Get this: In the history of postseason baseball, there have been only eight games in which a starting pitcher struck out 10 and walked none. Lee was the starting pitcher for four of those. Incredible. Rays down to their final three outs, Rangers up 3-1.
10:58 p.m. -- I think we're no longer going to have to hear about any MLB franchises that have never won a postseason series anymore. Ian Kinsler hammers a pitch from Rafael Soriano to left for a two-run homer and puts Texas up 5-1. Totally in control at this point.
11:03 p.m. -- And Cliff Lee is back out to pitch the ninth. Wow.
11:08 p.m. -- What a masterpiece. Lee goes the distance, strikes out 11, retires 13 of the last 14 batters he faces and sends the Rangers to the ALCS for the first time. Final score: 5-1. So it's New York-Texas in the ALCS, beginning Friday night in Arlington. And how about the pitching we're going to see in both remaining series: Lee, Halladay, Oswalt, Hamels, Sabathia, Lincecum ... who's the slam-dunk No. 1 out of that pack? Honestly, you can make a case for just about any of them. I sense plenty more low-scoring games in the next round. Can't wait.