ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The final play Monday night was as well executed as it was badly needed for the Texas Rangers, an around-the-horn double play that put an end to a seemingly endless flurry of late scoring opportunities for Tampa Bay.
When Mitch Moreland scooped up the throw for the final out, the Rangers' dugout erupted and their heart rates came back to normal after surviving the final three innings of Game 3 of the American League Division Series.
Mike Napoli hit a two-run homer, Colby Lewis allowed only one hit and one run in six innings, and Neftali Feliz recorded the final four outs as the Rangers beat the Rays 4-3 to move within a game of winning the best-of-five series.
Game 4 is scheduled for 1:07 p.m. today at Tropicana Field. A victory would send the Rangers back to the AL Championship Series for the second straight year.
Shut out for eight of the nine innings and with their bullpen on the ropes for the final three, the win stands as the tightest in the club's postseason history.
"That was one intense ballgame," manager Ron Washington said. "It was three of the toughest innings that we experienced all year, and you had two ballclubs out there that never quit playing baseball. If you ever wanted to see a great baseball game, that was one out there today."
The Rangers had been blanked through six innings by David Price, who was staked to a 1-0 lead when Desmond Jennings started the fourth inning with a home run.
That was the lone blemish against Lewis, who struck out six in six innings, lowered his career postseason ERA to 1.67 and improved to 4-0 in five starts.
Napoli put Lewis (1-0) in position for the win with a two-run homer in the seventh after Adrian Beltre led off with a single. Price retired the next two Rangers, but Craig Gentry singled.
That was it for Price, but Brandon Gomes offered no relief by walking Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus on only nine pitches to load the bases.
Rays manager Joe Maddon went to left-hander J.P. Howell to get the lefty-hitting Josh Hamilton, who was mindful of the grand slam he hit off Howell in 2008.
But Hamilton knew that he would have a chance as long as he was patient and guarded the outside of the plate against the soft-throwing Howell.
Hamilton turned on an 0-1 curveball for a two-run single that gave the Rangers more cushion at 4-1.
The Rays quickly mounted a rally in their half of the seventh, loading the bases with one out against Darren Oliver. Alexi Ogando relieved and allowed an RBI groundout to Sean Rodriguez.
In the eighth, Jennings struck again with a leadoff homer off Mike Adams, who then walked the next three hitters. In between, though, was the biggest play off the game as Rangers bench coach Jackie Moore called a pitchout and Napoli nailed B.J. Upton trying to steal second base.
"I just tried to stay calm, have my feet under me and make a good throw," Napoli said.
Mike Gonzalez replaced Adams and struck out Johnny Damon on three pitches. Feliz entered, and Ben Zobrist couldn't check his swing on a 2-2 slider.
The Rays didn't go quietly in the ninth. Rodriguez singled with one out to bring up Kelly Shoppach, who hit two homers in Game 1, as the winning run.
Shoppach worked a full count but sent a grounder to Beltre, who fired to Kinsler at second for the first out. Kinsler rifled a throw to first that beat Shoppach and ended the game.
"It was like all the momentum was on their side late," Kinsler said. "This series isn't over yet. There's still one game to win. They're a resilient team just like we are. It's a great feeling to be on the winning side right now, but we need to get some rest and be ready for tomorrow."
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760