GAME 4 - Rays 5, Rangers 2: My Top 10 Observations
10. After a wasted weekend in Arlington we know this: Derek Holland isn't ready to be a playoff pitcher. Saturday he allowed a single and a walk to ignite Tampa's game-tying rally and in today's Game 4 loss he served up a two-run homer to Evan Longoria that broke the Rangers' spirit.
9. Down 5-0 in the 5th, the Rangers missed their one shot to make Game 3 interesting. After Josh Hamilton ended a gritty at-bat by drawing a two-out walk to load the bases, Vladimir Guerrero uncharacteristically stared at the first pitch from Wade Davis. It was fastball. Belt-high. Perhaps on the outer half. But juicy nonetheless. Three pitches later Vlad chased a curve in the dirt to strike out and effectively end the game. The rest was just window dressing.
8. Rally caps, claws, antlers and good hitters be damned, Rays' pitchers retired the final nine Rangers' hitters over innings 7-8-9. So much for drama. Come to think of it, this series is yet to produce the October late-inning theater we've been craving. The final margins: 4, 6, 3 and 3. Probably means Game 5 will be a one-run nail-biter.
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7. The good news: Tommy Hunter struck out the side in the 4th. The bad news: In between he surrendered three hard-hit doubles, leading to two runs and a 3-0 Rays' lead.
6. Texas all-time in the playoffs: 3-5 on the road; 0-6 at home. That's just weird.
5. Since kicking a couple of balls in Games 1-2, Tampa - as advertised - has played better defense than the Rangers. While Matt Joyce made a diving catching in right field to potentially save a run and Carl Crawford made another sweet grab for the Rays, the Rangers made a complete mess of things in the outfield. Josh Hamilton took an awkward, too-close angle on Carlos Pena's drive off the wall to turn a double into a triple before Nelson Cruz (who did hit his third solo homer of the series, by the way) inexplicably failed to call off Ian Kinsler for a shallow pop to right. Ian's boot and resulting error led to an unearned run. Cruz, armed with a gun and coming off an assist in Game 3, makes that catch with his momentum headed toward home and Pena probably doesn't even try to score from third. Remember the part about the Rays playing a cleaner, more efficient brand of baseball?
4. Hamilton just isn't right. Basically he's seeing off-speed pitches and pounding them into the dirt at his feet. The one 96-mph fastball he saw today from Wade Davis totally beat him. Can the Rangers win a series if their MVP produces neither an extra-base hit nor RBI?
3. Stop me if you've heard this one before: Texas team has a commanding 2-0 lead in a playoff series and builds a late-game lead in Game 3 against a team from Florida. Then ... Mavericks fans, I hope you're all wrong. But the Rangers led 2-1 and were five outs from winning in Game 3 when Carlos Pena turned into Dwyane Wade.
2. Not even the sainted red jerseys could save the Rangers. 30-9 at home in red during the regular season, they are now 0-2 in the playoffs.
1. Though I would have rather him thrown in today's Game 4, I feel decent about Cliff Lee in Tuesday's Game 5 in St. Petersburg. Decent. You? It's just going to be a shame if the Rangers lose this series with C.J. Wilson getting just as many starts as Tommy Hunter. When in doubt, ask what your opponent would like to see you do. No doubt the Rays were begging for Hunter, rather than a partially-rested Lee. The bad news: No 5-game baseball series has ever been decided by five road wins. The good news: Lee has never lost a playoff start. Delicious.
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