October 04, 2011
Score and situation: For the second straight season, the Texas Rangers eliminated the Tampa Bay Rays from the playoffs, taking them out 4-3 in Game 4 of the ALDS behind three home runs by Adrian Beltre(notes). The Rangers won the final three, including the clicher at Tropicana Field, after dropping the first game at home.
Leading lad: Bel-Trés, por favor! Beltre put on a show for the ages, hitting a solo homer in each of his first three at-bats, and taking only three swings to do it. He joins the Angels' Adam Kennedy(notes), the Royals' George Brett, the Yankees' Reggie Jackson, the Pirates' Bob Robertson and the immortal Babe Ruth in the three-home run postseason club. Beltre came in with zero three-homer games in his career, and he started the series 0 for 9, but he was a monster in September, hitting 12 homers and slugging .778 after getting over an injury.
Head hanger: The Rays literally would not have made the playoffs without Evan Longoria(notes), but he was shut down by Ranger pitchers after early success, going 0 for 4 with two strikeouts to finish with a .188 batting average. Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson(notes) picked a mean time to suffer a regression to the mean. Not that the Rays really have anything about which to hang their heads. They had a great season.
Key play: Pick a homer, any homer. In the long run, the move Ron Washington made to get Mike Adams(notes) back in the game paid off with two outs, which should allow him to wipe the slate clean mentally.
What they'll be talking about: For Tampa Bay, the same problems that impact Rays attendance during the regular season — economics, park location, interest from casual bandwagoners — led to an announced attendance of 28,099 — about 4,000 fewer than in Game 3. Depending on where you look, and what they do in covering seats with tarps, capacity for the Trop is about 34,000.
What's next: No matter their next opponents, the Rangers probably will be favored to reach the World Series for the second straight season. Even though they (still) don't have Cliff Lee(notes), they appear to deserve such confidence.
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