One of the major storylines throughout the Texas Rangers’ season has been their resiliency to bounce back from losses. For individual players to grow from rough stretches.
Going through those trying times certainly paid off on Saturday night. The Rangers seemed destined for a quick postseason exit, falling behind the Tampa Bay Rays 3-0 by the middle of the fourth inning. And James Shields, who had a 0.53 ERA against the Rangers this season, appeared to be in cruise control.
But the Rangers broke through for five runs off Shields in the fourth, and held on for an 8-6 victory in Game 2 of the American League Division Series at Rangers Ballpark.
The best-of-five series is now tied 1-1, as the teams travel to St. Petersburg, Fla. for Game 3 at 4 p.m. on Monday at Tropicana Field. Right-hander Colby Lewis will start for the Rangers, while the Rays will counter with left-hander David Price. Texas wanted to avoid a 0-2 hole, as only four teams have battled back from that deficit to win a Division Series.
It almost seemed inevitable at the start, though.
Rangers starter Derek Holland struggled from the get-go. In the first two innings, he threw 52 pitches. However, he was able to minimize the damage to only one run when he walked Kelly Shoppach with the bases loaded in the first.
After an eight-pitch third, Holland ran into more trouble in the fourth. With two outs, Casey Kotchman sent a chopper back to Holland, who made a throwing error to first. The Rays capitalized on the next batter, as Matt Joyce belted a 3-1 fastball off the rightfield upper-deck façade to give Tampa a 3-0 lead.
At the time, Shields had worked a quick three innings, allowing only two singles. Things unraveled for him in the fourth.
Shields hit leadoff batter Elvis Andrus with a pitch, and Texas loaded the bases with consecutive singles by Josh Hamilton and Michael Young. Shields then gifted the Rangers a run by hitting Adrian Beltre with a pitch.
Mike Napoli tied the game at 3-3 with a two-run single to left. The Rangers scored the go-ahead run when David Murphy struck out on a wild pitch by Shields that Beltre scored on. Murphy was also safe at first on the play. In the ensuing at-bat, Texas took a 5-3 lead on Mitch Moreland’s RBI groundout.
The Rangers extended their lead to 7-3 in the sixth with a two-run double by Ian Kinsler. Those proved to be key runs.
Rangers right-hander Koji Uehara came on for the seventh, and didn’t record an out. He walked Desmond Jennings, gave up a single to B.J. Upton and then Evan Longoria took him deep over the left-center field fence to cut the deficit to 7-6.
Darren Oliver relieved Uehara and retired the next three batters. And Mike Adams worked a 1-2-3 eighth.
Mitch Moreland added an insurance run in the eighth, drilling a solo home run to right to put Texas up 8-6. It was his first home run at home since June 21
Closer Neftali Feliz saved it for the Rangers. After issuing a one-out walk to Upton, Feliz got Longoria to fly out to center and Ben Zobrist to fly out to right.
Holland managed to get through five innings, allowing three runs (one earned) on six hits with two walks and two strikeouts. He earned his second career postseason victory.