The Rangers are sure glad to be leaving Tropicana Field after the Tampa Bay Rays handled them in a three-game sweep that ended Wednesday afternoon. The good news? The Rangers (67-52) still lead the AL West by eight games over both the Angels and Athletics.
Let us review what happened in this series against Tampa Bay and how the Rangers can better themselves in the near future.
In game one of this series on Monday night, it was a dynamic pitching matchup between Cliff Lee and David Price. It was one of those games that you would expect to see in game one of a playoff series. However, neither pitcher was as sharp as you would normally expect. The Rangers worked Price all night to the tune of five walks and 109 pitches in six innings. However, it took them until the 7th inning to cash in on those opportunities. With the bases loaded, nobody out, and the Rangers down 2-0, Mitch Moreland grounded into a double play to score one run and Elvis Andrus followed with a clutch RBI infield single to tie it at 2.
In the 8th inning, the Rangers tacked on two more runs thanks to a pair of triples by Joaquin Arias and Jorge Cantu and a single off the top of the wall by Bengie Molina. A 4-2 lead going into the bottom of the 8th with Cliff Lee still on the mound seemed like a done deal, but that’s why they play nine innings. Lee got himself intro trouble though as he gave up four earned runs in the inning to give the Rays a 6-4 win. His final line was 7 2/3 innings allowing six runs while striking out ten.
However, Lee received no support from his defense, even though the box score indicated no errors. Manager Ron Washington was not pleased with his defense at all, particularly Arias. He could not track down a bloop hit which started the Rays’ rally and then made an ill-advised throw to second base on a fielder’s choice in an attempt to record a double play but instead got nobody out. “There were too many outs that were supposed to be outs that didn’t happen and that was the game right there,” said Washington.
There isn’t much that needs to be said about game two of this series as the Rays just completely dominated the Rangers 10-1. Tommy Hunter didn’t have it for the second straight start as he gave up four runs and three walks in only three innings. It was the second start in a row for Hunter in which he could not get past the third inning. His counterpart Matt Garza was in control from the onset. Garza pitched seven innings of shutout baseball and recorded ten strikeouts in the process. Reliever Pedro Strop let the game get out of hand in the 7th inning as he allowed five runs which provided the final margin.
The finale of this series today was another game in which the Rays’ pitching proved to be the difference. James Shields pitched seven solid innings for the Rays allowing two runs (one earned) on only four hits as the Rays held on for an 8-6 win. Derek Holland returned from the disabled list to make his first start since May 30 but received the loss as he gave up five runs, four walks and two home runs in 4 1/3 innings. While he wasn’t sharp, Holland showed some positive signs as he recorded eight strikeouts.
Taylor Teagarden had another solid game despite limiting playing time as he went 2-4 with a solo home run. Moreland added a two run shot in the 9th which forced the Rays to bring in their closer, but it wasn’t enough in the end.
Although the Rangers got swept, there is still plenty of time to fix what went wrong. While it would have been nice to get a win in this series, let us not forget that Tampa Bay (74-46) is a very good team. The Rangers were also not playing with a full deck. In the finale of the series today, there was no Andrus, Young, Kinsler, Cruz or Molina, all of whom would be starting for the Rangers on a normal day. The defense does need to be shored up though. The Rangers’ fielding percentage (.981) is tied with the Royals for the worst in the AL. Only three teams in the AL have committed more errors than the Rangers (81). Finally, the pitching has to be better. The three starters in this series combined to give up 15 runs in only 15 innings.
The Rangers will look to get back in the win column starting Thursday night as they open up a four-game series in Baltimore.