Rangers 2, Rays 1
- So, Texas split the series in Tampa, and went 5-2 on this road trip. That will work.
- What a weird team this is right now. The Rangers won today on the strength of 6 solid innings from starter Wandy Rodriguez, with Kyle Blanks and Carlos Peguero start at 1B and LF, respectively, and Adam Rosales manning 2B for the third straight game.
- Wandy retired the final 19 hitters he faced in his last start, against Houston, and then retired the first 15 hitters he faced today, ending up with a team record 34 straight batters retired. Tim Beckham broke it up with a clean single to left in the sixth, and then Wandy, who had been cruising, got into trouble. After Kevin Kiermaier hit into a fielder's choice, Wandy hit Rene Rivera on a 1-2 pitch, then gave up an RBI single to Brandon Guyer. Steven Souza then walked, loading the bases and bringing up Evan Longoria. With Wandy approaching 90 pitches, a guy who has been killing lefties coming up, and a 1-1 game, I figured Jeff Banister would go to the pen. But no, he left Wandy in to face Longoria, and Longoria responded with a line drive smash back up the middle that looked like it was going to drive in a pair. And then, in a flash, Elvis Andrus dove, snagged the ball in the air, and was able to flip to Rosales covering second base for an inning-ending double play. A huge turning point in the game.
- Keone Kela had a very Keona Kela 7th inning, striking out two batters, walking one, throwing a wild pitch, issuing almost as many balls as strikes, and then getting out of the inning unscathed. He is now rocking a 1.80 ERA on the year. Shawn Tolleson gave up a leadoff single in the eighth, followed by a sac bunt, but the Rays couldn't get the runner across, setting up Neftali Feliz to pitch the 9th.
- This was, in a way, vintage Neftali Feliz. He apparently hit 97 on the stadium gun, had every fastball at least at 95 mph, and given a 2-1 lead, he closed out the game without giving up a run. But it wasn't easy. After Longoria flied out to start the inning, Logan Forsythe singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch, then moved to third on a James Loney single. Feliz blew Asdrubal Cabrera away on three pitches, though, then got Tim Beckham on a fielder's choice to end the game (with some help from Carlos Corporan, who saved a pitch that seemed like a sure game-tying wild pitch from getting by).
- Once again, the offense didn't do much, but they did enough. Adrian Beltre gave the Rangers a lead in the 4th with his third homer of the year, and then was responsible for bringing home Elvis Andrus with the winning run in the 8th. Kevin Jepsen walked Elvis and Prince Fielder back to back to start the inning, setting up Beltre bring Elvis home with an RBI single.
- Jeff Banister has been aggressive in using Delino DeShields, Jr., to pinch run late in games this season, to the point if I wonder if he isn't using him in situations where it maybe would be better not to make the switch. Today, for example, when Fielder drew the walk in the 8th, Banister pulled him for DeShields. Elvis was already on second as the go-ahead run, and there was a pretty good chance Fielder's spot was going to come back up in the 9th. Losing Fielder, and going with DeShields there, seemed like a questionable trade-off, and it looked worse when a DeShields baserunning snafu contributed to him being thrown out when Kyle Blanks hit into what turned into a double play after Beltre's single.
- Similarly, Shin-Soo Choo, who was 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles, was lifted from the game in the bottom of the 8th for what I'm assuming were defensive purposes, rather than his back or ankle acting up. Replacing him was Jake Smolinski, who came up to hit in the 9th with a runner on base. Smolinski fanned, and the runner ended up being stranded. Again, it didn't matter in this case, but making the move at that point, in a one run game with a shaky bullpen and Choo's spot due up, threw me.
- Elvis Andrus didn't get a hit today, but he did make a couple of nice plays in the field. Early in the game, he made a play deep in the hole on a grounder that looked like it was going for a single, and then made a terrific throw to nab the runner at first. And as I mentioned above, in the sixth, he made a tremendous diving play on what would have been a go-ahead single by Longoria to get the Rangers out of the inning: