The usually potent Texas Rangers were shut down by Tampa Bay’s rookie phenom in Game 1 of their AL division series.
Things aren’t likely to get any easier with a matchup against one of the Rays’ top veterans.
Johnny Damon(notes) homered, Kelly Shoppach(notes) went deep twice and 22-year-old Matt Moore(notes) - making just his second major league start - threw seven innings of two-hit ball Friday, leading the Rays to a 9-0 victory over the Rangers in Game 1.
“I am glad we got off to a good start, and we have two more to go,” said Moore, who was called up from Triple-A Durham on Sept. 12.
Including their rally from a seven-run deficit to beat New York 8-7 in 12 innings and capture the wild card in the regular-season finale, the Rays have outscored the opposition 17-0 in their last 14 innings.
Texas, meanwhile, went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position Friday en route to its seventh postseason shutout in 27 games. The Rangers, who led the majors with a .283 average during the regular season, and finished second in homers (210) and third in runs (855), haven’t lost back-to-back games since a three-game skid Aug. 23-25.
“We have always bounced back, and we will bounce back,” manager Ron Washington said. “We have a five-game series here. They got the first one. I don’t think it matters if they won 1-0 or 9-0. We got beat. We can take that. We’ll bounce back (Saturday).”
Regrouping against Shields (16-12, 2.82 ERA) could prove difficult.
Shields baffled Texas in two regular-season starts this year, winning both while yielding one run over 17 innings. The last of his MLB-leading 11 complete games was a 5-1 victory over the Rangers on Sept. 5.
“They got one of the better hitting teams in the big leagues, but you have to be a aggressive,” Shields said. “You have to attack those hitters. You can’t make too many mistakes.
“I faced them back to back (late in the year), and that’s pretty tough in itself. But now is the time to get down and dirty.”
Shields posted career worsts of 15 losses and a 5.18 ERA in 2010, then went on to labor in Game 2 of last season’s ALDS, surrendering four runs in 4 1-3 innings of a 6-0 defeat to Texas. The right-hander, however, seems confident that his tremendous performance this season will carry over into Saturday.
“I think this year’s been a completely different year for me as far as pitching,” he said.
“I am just going to go and pitch this year on exactly how I have been pitching all year long.”
“Normally you won’t see many pitchers who double, triple and quadruple up, throwing the same pitch over and over and over again,” Hamilton told the Rays’ official website. “But if you’ve got a changeup like that, it makes your fastball so much better if you can locate it.”
The 24-year-old left-hander went 10-1 with a 2.77 ERA over his final 15 starts, recording the second-most wins and sixth-lowest ERA in the AL since July 7.
“I feel very confident going into this right now,” Holland said. “… It was definitely a roller coaster. I had my bumps and bruises. The main thing is it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, and I feel like I finished this pretty well.”
Holland is 3-1 despite a shaky 6.51 ERA in five career regular-season starts against Tampa Bay. He made six relief appearances - two versus the Rays - during the Rangers’ playoff run last year, compiling a 4.76 ERA and earning a win over the Yankees in the AL championship series.
“I think that’s going to play a big role. I mean, I have been on the big stage before, so this is just a regular game to me,” Holland said.
The visiting club has won all six postseason games between these teams.
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