October 03, 2011
Score and situation: The Texas Rangers put the Tampa Bay Rays on the brink of elimination with a 4-3 victory Monday night at Tropicana Field. The Rangers, who lead the best-of-five ALDS 2-1, also knocked off the Rays in the division series a season ago on their way to the World Series.
[Slideshow: Check out photos of the Rangers' win]
Leading lads: Mike Napoli(notes) hit a two-run home run to get Texas on the scoreboard and put the Rangers ahead 2-1 in the top of the seventh inning. Right-hander Colby Lewis(notes) dominated over six innings and 93 pitches, striking out six and allowing just one hit — a leadoff homer in the fourth to rookie Desmond Jennings(notes). Relievers Mike Gonzalez and Neftali Feliz(notes) also got Texas out of a big jam in the eighth.
Head hangers: B.J Upton, Evan Longoria(notes) and Matt Joyce(notes), the Rays' 2-3-4 hitters, went a combined 0-for-8 with five strikeouts — three by Longoria. Tampa Bay's bullpen couldn't limit the damage after Napoli's homer, allowing two more runs in the seventh on Josh Hamilton's(notes) two-run single.
Key play: The Rangers were being out-homered 6-1 in the series when Napoli shortened up his swing on a two-strike pitch and muscled-up for a two-run shot against left-hander David Price(notes). Price was otherwise on his game after struggling in September and coming in with a 5.48 ERA in six starts (including two in the playoffs) against the Rangers.
What they'll be talking about: The comeback kids from Tampa Bay, who were nine games out of the wild card in early September and seven runs down in Game 162 before roaring back to make the playoffs, find themselves one loss from elimination. Jennings, who hit two home runs against the Rangers, is on the verge of stardom.
What's next: Rookie Jeremy Hellickson(notes) tries to keep the Rays' season alive in Game 4 on Tuesday night in a matchup against left-hander Matt Harrison(notes). Hellickson had a 2.95 ERA in 29 starts, and if he and the Rays can tie the series, rookie Matt Moore(notes) would return to start Game 5. He threw seven shutout innings in a Game 1 victory.
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