Rangers 5, Rays 3
- My preference, if Yovani Gallardo was going to be in the Rangers' playoff rotation (and I wasn't convinced he should be), was to use him in Game 1 of the ALDS. The Rangers would have a fully rested bullpen with three days off (four days, it turned out, because of Cole Hamels going 9 on Sunday), and with Hamels going in Game 2 on Friday, you probably aren't anticipating needing the pen much in that game. So you can go with Gallardo for 4 or 5 innings, then ride your key guys in the pen the rest of the way.
- That's what Jeff Banister opted to do, and it pretty much worked to perfection. Gallardo had a very second-half-of-2015 start -- 5 IP, just 1 walk and 1 K, 79 pitches, 45 strikes, 2 runs allowed -- and then handed it off to the pen with a lead.
- Gallardo didn't even allow a baserunner until the fourth inning, at it was looking at one point that Gallardo might actually end up working relatively deep in the game, despite a pitching style that Tom Verducci repeatedly referred to as "stubborn." I don't know if I'd call nibbling and not being able to miss bats being "stubborn," but whatever...
- Gallardo gave up his first run in the fourth inning, after Adrian Beltre had been replaced in the field by Hanser Alberto, and it is possible that Beltre being in the game would have resulted in no runs in the frame. A Ben Revere single followed by a Josh Donaldson walk put two on with no one out for Jose Bautista. Bautista hit what looked like a double play ball to third base, but Alberto double-clutched the throw to second, and with Rougned Odor having to jump over a hard-sliding Donaldson (who took an inadvertent knee to the head from Odor, which ended up knocking Donaldson out of the game), Odor chose to put the ball in his pocket rather than try to make the throw to first.
- Interestingly, on a similar play in the final game of the season, Odor did the splits over a hard-sliding Mike Trout and threw the ball into the dugout trying to turn the double play. When Odor pulled back and didn't throw, it led me to wonder whether he remembered that play in his last game, and whether he would have tried to get Bautista, had that not happened on Sunday.
- Edwin Encarnacion then hit a slow chopper that Alberto had to charge and try to barehand. That's the classic Adrian Beltre play, I think...there's no one in baseball I've ever seen who can do the charge-barehand-throw accurately play as well as Beltre. Alberto couldn't handle the pick, and it resulted in an RBI infield single.
- Fortunately, Gallardo got out of the inning with just one run, but ran into trouble again in the fifth. A Russell Martin leadoff double and a Kevin Pillar one out double brought another run home, cutting the Ranger lead to 4-2 and leading Keone Kela to start warming. Gallardo retired the final two batters of the inning, and gave way to Kela in the 6th.
- Kela came out firing in the 6th inning, getting ahead of leadoff hitter Jose Bautista 1-2, then looking to put him away on a high fastball. Bautista caught up with it and crushed it, though, homering to cut the lead to 4-3. Encarnacion followed that with a blast down the left field line that I thought for sure was gone, but went foul, giving Kela a second chance. Kela came through, getting Encarnacion to ground out sharply to Alberto, then retired Tulowitzki on a flyout and Justin Smoak on a swinging K to end the inning.
- Jake Diekman pitched a 6 pitch 7th, and I figured that, with Ben Revere leading off the 8th, Diekman might get to pitch to the lefty, but then would be pulled for Sam Dyson. Honestly, I expected Dyson to start the 8th either way...Jeff Banister has been pretty wedded to roles, and Dyson is his 8th inning guy. To my surprise, though, Diekman pitched the 8th inning, with Sam Dyson coming in for the 9th.
- It was baffling...Jeff Banister had spent all season sending Shawn Tolleson in in save situations, regardless of how well the 8th inning guy was pitching or how few pitches he had thrown. But here, in the playoffs, he opted to leave his closer on the bench and go with Dyson, who he apparently felt matched up better against the big Toronto sluggers. I'm fine with the decision, but I am kind of baffled as to why Banister is opting to deviate from the traditional set inning plan he's gone with most of the year for a matchup-oriented approach in the playoffs.
- In any case, Dyson promptly gave up a single, and I started worrying that Dyson was going to struggle and we'd hear about how that's why you only give the ball to your closer in the 9th. No worries, though...Dyson fanned Tulowitzki, got Smoak on a fielder's choice, and then induced a grounder to third base by Martin. Smoak had gone to second on fielder's indifference on a previous pitch and ran when the ball was hit to third, so Alberto, in Adrian Beltre-esque fashion, opted to turn and tag the runner out to end the game, rather than throwing to first.
- The pitching situation went almost exactly to plan. Kela did give up a home run to Bautista, but that's one of those power vs. power situations, and sometimes a Keone Kela is going to give up a bomb to a Jose Bautista. But overall, Gallardo gave you five solid innings, your bullpen weapons allow two hits over four innings, and the powerful Jays offense only scored three runs.
- On the offensive side, the Rangers got on the board in the third inning with a pair of runs. David Price hit Rougned Odor to start the inning, and after Robinson Chirinos was retired on a hit-and-run grounder that let Odor go to second, Delino DeShields singled Odor home. Choo then grounded out on a hit-and-run grounder that sent DeShields to second, and Adrian Beltre brought DeShields home on an RBI single.
- That single came at a significant price, though...in the first inning, Choo and Beltre had each walked, bringing up Prince Fielder. Fielder hit a double play grounder, and Beltre slid hard into second, landing badly. That apparently did something to his lower back, and after Beltre singled, he looked like a 90 year old man running, blowing air out of his mouth and trotting awkwardly and stiffly. The trainer looked at him, and he stayed in the game, but when he went out to third base in the bottom of the inning, it was clear he wasn't right, and Beltre was lifted from the game.
- I have a hard time imagining how badly Beltre must have been hurting to come out of the game in that situation. He
will have an MRI tomorrowhad an MRI today, and the Rangers will have to see if and when he'll play again this postseason.
- The Rangers added a couple of more runs in the top of the fifth, when Odor led off the inning, once again, by getting hit, and then Robinson Chirinos took David Price deep for a two run home run. Odor finished off the scoring with a rocket line drive home run in the top of the 7th, giving the Rangers what was their final margin of victory, 5-3.
- It was a very solid game for the Rangers, who only got five hits on the day -- a pair of hits from DeShields, the Beltre hurt back single, and the two bombs -- but who made them count. This is what playoff baseball feels like...beating up on David Price in the ALDS brings back memories of 2010 and 2011.