ARLINGTON, Texas (AP)—When Ben Zobrist caught a flyball in deep right field, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon was more concerned about the runner who was going to third base.
Zobrist instead made a perfect throw to home plate for a double play to end the Texas eighth inning, and the Rays held on for a 2-0 victory Wednesday, winning the finale of what had been a difficult three-game series in Texas.
“Especially in a big situation, where we’re trying to prevent runs, especially going into the ninth, it felt great,” Zobrist said. “It was exciting, and warmed me up just a little bit.”
Matt Moore (2-0) combined with four relievers on a five-hitter and the Rays got their only runs on a fielder’s choice grounder by Zobrist and a sacrifice fly by Evan Longoria to win the coldest day game ever at Rangers Ballpark.
It was only 39 degrees when the game started after a rain delay of 1 hour, 29 minutes. That was 40 degrees colder than Tuesday night.
Texas had runners at second and third with one out in the eighth when pinch-hitter Leonys Martin hit the fly to right. Adrian Beltre tagged up from third base, and David Murphy was ready to advance from second.
“I was really surprised on Zo’s throw. I did not think he had a shot, I thought it was too deep,” Maddon said. “But he made an absolutely perfect throw and (catcher Jose Lobaton did a nice job on the other end.”
Texas, which had won six of seven since its season-opening loss at Houston, also appeared to have a run in the sixth. Mitch Moreland the third batter after Moore left the game, beat out an inning-ending double-play grounder.
Moreland had already been signaled safe and Nelson Cruz had crossed home plate when interference was called against Jeff Baker at second. Baker slid away from the bag and into the path of shortstop Yunel Escobar who double-clutched before making the relay throw.
“It was obvious (Baker) made no intent to get to the bag,” said Rangers manager Ron Washington, who did go out to discuss the call with second base umpire Marty Foster. “He may have done that, but that had no effect on why (Escobar) double- or triple-clutched on the throw.”
That inning-ending play was much different than the game-ending strike in Monday night’s series opener that Texas won 5-4. That game ended with Zobrist batting when Foster was behind home plate and called strike three on a full-count curveball low and outside—a call the ump later admitted he got wrong.
“The last two days were tough days, tough losses for us,” Zobrist said. “But getting a win going into an off day certainly feels a lot better, albeit how cold it was and how we didn’t necessarily kill the ball.”
Longoria had a sacrifice fly in the fifth for Tampa Bay, which had lost three in a row and on Thursday has its only day off in a 27-day span to start the season. The Rays start a four-game series at Boston on Friday.
Derek Holland (0-1) limited the Rays to two runs and five hits over eight innings. The Texas lefty struck out four and walked three, all those walks coming in the third to load the bases before Zobrist’s grounder.
Moore limited Texas to a single and struck out five, but had six walks and threw 106 pitches—52 of them balls with two wild pitches—in his 5 1-3 innings. He benefited from two double-play grounders, one soon after he came out of the game.
“Where the big pitches that really needed to be made, I was locked into those moments,” Moore said. “From that, we can be happy with what the results were.”
The only other time Moore pitched in Texas was the 2011 AL division series opener, when he threw seven scoreless innings for the Rays. He threw six shutout frames against Cleveland last week in his first start this season.
Holland’s first walk was to No. 9 hitter Kelly Johnson leading off the third. Johnson eventually scored when Zobrist beat out a throw to first that prevented an inning-ending double play.
“I felt like I had better command of my fastball. I got a little erratic (in the third),” Holland said. “I went out there and battled. I’m not going to sit here and beat myself up about it. … It definitely was cold, but I’ve got to make my pitches and he’s got to make his pitches.”
NOTES: The only colder start at Rangers Ballpark, which is in its 20th season, was a night game against Boston on April 7, 2007, when it was 38 degrees. Texas is more known for the summer heat. Just two seasons ago, the temperature was at least 100 degrees for 27 games at the park. … Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux had to go to the dentist when a crown came loose. That’s why bullpen coach Andy Hawkins visited Holland on the mound in the third. Maddux was back in the dugout soon after that.