GAME 1 - Rangers 5, Rays 1: My Top 10 Observations
10. Going up 1-0 in a best-of-five series is always nice, but an even better sign to me was the effective, aggressive play of Josh Hamilton. He singled in his first at-bat, cut loose a throw ambitiously behind a runner after a fly ball and even stole second base with a head-first slide. If his ribs hurt, it certainly didn't show.
9. For those of
you us who thought the Rays would play a cleaner, more efficient series than the Rangers, uh-oh. Tampa made two errors in an infield that, for the most part, had a flawless regular season.
8. When your team scored just one run in its previous playoff series, the first one is always a little nerve-wracking. Like, until you get it, there's that hint of doubt that you'll ever get it. In other words, thank you Jeff Francoeur. His shot off the wall to center in the second scored Ian Kinsler and provided a sigh of relief that this playoff thing isn't that difficult after all. Ice = Broken.
7. Props to the Rangers' front office for treating their employees right. Texas flew 90 staffers to St. Petersburg for Games 1 and 2, a reward for having been through for what, at the very least, was a trying season, what with bankruptcy and all. Good times. Good move.
6. Nelson Cruz's bomb -- and I mean a 438-foot bomb -- put Texas up 3-0 and was, amazingly, the Rangers' first homer on a 3-0 pitch this season. Not sure why Rays' starter David Price threw a 3-0 slider, but I'm certain that Cruz liked it.
5. Great crowd at J. Gilligan's in Arllington. Standing room only, Fox 4 showed up and -- lookie there -- it was Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck joining in the festivities. We'll do it again tomorrow at 11 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan. Like Ernie Banks said, let's play two!
4. Thanks for making it interesting, Neftali Feliz. Given a four-run lead he promptly, inexplicably, walked the first two batters in the ninth before retiring the next three for the win.
3. Entering the game the Rangers had two players to hit homers in their playoff history -- Juan Gonzalez and Dean Palmer. Today they doubled that total with dingers from Cruz and -- surprise! -- Bengie Molina.
2. Oh, so that's why the Rangers traded for Cliff Lee. After giving up four hits to the first eight Tampa batters, Lee was totally in control. He went seven strong innings, setting a Rangers' franchise playoff record with 10 strikeouts. Gotta give it to him, when given a lead the dude threw nothing but strikes. John Burkett, you have company. Oh, and C.J. Wilson, top that.
1. Let's admit it, Lee was also a bit lucky. With the bases loaded in the first he threw a 2-1 fastball high and tight to the Rays' Carlos Pena. At 3-1, he would've been forced to groove a fastball to a hitter with 28 homers. But, wait, umpire Tim Welke ruled that the pitch ticked Pena's bat for a foul tip, strike two. No way. It somehow sounded like it, but replays clearly showed it didn't. You could tell the way Molina didn't flinch. At 2-2, Lee came back to strike out Pena, who was looking on a full-count fastball down the middle. The way the Rangers yanked Price around the yard it probably didn't matter, but, then again, it might have been the game's biggest play.
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