3:43 PM - We're about 20 minutes from the first pitch of the first game of the 2011 postseason with the Cinderella Rays taking on the defending AL Champion Texas Rangers. The big story heading into play tonight is that 22 year old lefty Matt Moore, who has made just one major league start, will be getting the ball for the Rays tonight. Don't let his lack of experience fool you though. In his one start against the Yankees just over a week ago he tossed 5 shutout innings and fanned 11 hitters. Not a bad first start. In 27 starts between AA and AAA this year, Moore went 12-3 with a 1.92 ERA and 210 strike outs in just 155 innings. Where do the Rays keep finding these guys? He'll be opposed by C.J. Wilson, who was converted from a reliever to a starter before the 2010 season, and set career highs this year in starts (34), innings (223 1/3), strikeouts (206), wins (16) and a 2.94 ERA. Against the Rays this year, Wilson has made 3 starts allowing just 5 runs and 10 hits in 21 2/3 innings. Rays hitters batted just .147 against him this year. So you've got an exciting match-up of lefties tonight. Let's get this started.
|Photo Credit: zimbio.com|
3:58 PM - Great moment for the ceremonial first pitch tonight as 6 year old Cooper Stone, whose father was killed at a Rangers game earlier this year when he fell from the bleachers while trying to catch a ball thrown by Josh Hamilton, was escorted onto the field along with his mother by Nolan Ryan and got to throw out the first pitch to Hamilton. I love baseball.
|Photo Credit: sports.yahoo.com|
4:01 PM - C.J. Wilson has NEVER lost to Tampa Bay apparently. 5-0 in his career.
4:02 PM - Here are your batting orders:
Sean Rodriguez SS - .223, 8 HRs, 36 RBIs, 11 SBs
B.J. Upton CF - .243, 23 HRs, 81 RBIs, 36 SBs
Evan Longoria 3B - .244, 31 HRs, 99 RBIs, 3 SBs
Ben Zobrist 2B - .269, 20 HRs, 91 RBIs, 19 SBs
Johnny Damon DH - .261, 16 HRs, 73 RBIs, 19 SBs
Kelly Shoppach C - .176, 11 HRs, 22 RBIs, 0 SBs
Casey Kotchman 1B - .306, 10 HRs, 48 RBIs, 2 SBs
Desmond Jennings LF - .259, 10 HRs, 25 RBIs, 20 SBs
Matt Joyce RF - .277, 19 HRs, 75 RBIs, 13 SBs
Ian Kinsler 2B - .255, 32 HRs, 77 RBIs, 30 SBs
Elvis Andrus SS - .279, 5 HRs, 60 RBIs, 37 SBs
Josh Hamilton CF - .298, 25 HRs, 94 RBIs, 8 SBs
Michael Young 1B - .338, 11 HRs, 106 RBIs, 6 SBs
Adrian Beltre 3B - .296, 32 HRs, 105 RBIs, 1 SB
Mike Napoli C - .320, 30 HRs, 75 RBIs, 4 SBs
Nelson Cruz RF - .263, 29 HRs, 87 RBIs, 9 SBs
Yorvit Torrealba DH - .273, 7 HRs, 37 RBIs, 0 SBs
Craig Gentry LF - ..271, 1 HR, 13 RBIs, 18 SBs
4:09 PM - And we are underway as Wilson throws a strike to Rodriguez to start the game!
|Photo Credit: zimbio.com|
4:10 PM - B.J. Upton is 0 for 14 lifetime against C.J. Wilson as he steps in for the first time today. And make it 0 for 15 as Wilson drops a breaking ball in there for a called strike three. Upton has struck out 7 times in 15 at-bats against the lefty.
4:12 PM - And Longoria lines out to left as we have a 1-2-3 first inning. Not the start the Rays were hoping for, but hey, there's a lot of baseball left to be played today. And now we get ready to watch the rookie Moore deal with that powerful Texas lineup.
4:18 PM - It's been pointed out that this is the first time that Kelly Shoppach and Matt Moore have EVER worked together. Shoppach wasn't behind the plate in any of Moore's regular season appearances and they didn't work together in spring training. Kinda crazy to have that be your starting battery in Game 1 of the postseason.
4:21 PM - And we have our first base hit of the game as Hamilton rips the first pitch he sees past the shortstop Rodriguez and into left field. Moore not showing any signs of jitters though having retired the first two hitters. And now he'll get Young on a lazy flyball to right-center. No score after one inning in Texas.
4:25 PM - Ben Zobrist batting cleanup for the Rays tonight. In the past week we've seen the Rays use 3 different clean-up hitters: Johnny Damon, Zobrist and Matt Joyce. And Zobrist takes one off the elbow and is Tampa's first baserunner.
4:30 PM - Johnny Damon, playing in his 8th postseason, has just given Tampa an early lead with a 2-run homer to rightfield. Wilson surrendered just 2 home runs to lefties in 179 at-bats during the regular season. Interestingly enough, one of those two homers was hit by the Rays Matt Joyce, who is batting 9th today. Anyhow, it's the 10th home run in Damon's postseason career.
|Photo Credit: it.eurosport.yahoo.com|
4:34 PM - Desmond Jennings stepping in now with a runner on 2nd and 1 away. Jennings apparently finished the regular season 0 for his last 26. Good thing I picked him up for my fantasy team with like a week to go in the regular season. There's a reason I didn't repeat as league champion this year.
4:38 PM - Matt Joyce hits a seeing-eye single just past a diving Kinsler and scores the not-so-fleet-of-foot Kelly Shoppach to give the Rays a 3-0 lead. Not the start that Texas was hoping for.
4:42 - Wilson finally gets out of the inning. The Texas offense is prolific though having scored fewer than three runs just twice in the month of September. One of those times was against the Rays though when they were shut down by James Shields in a 5-1 loss.
4:47 - Mike Napoli stepping in with one out in the 2nd and promptly grounds out to short. It's worth noting that Napoli was an absolute monster this year slugging 30 homers in just 369 at bats. It was the first time that Napoli, who spent his first 5 Big League seasons with the Angels before joining Texas this year, had ever hit 30 homers in a season.
4:49 PM - Moore fans Nelson Cruz to give him 2 strikeouts on the day and a quick 1-2-3 inning. Moore hasn't even played a game at Tropicana Field in his career with his three regular season games, and this start, all coming on the road. He doesn't seem to be having any issues though. What a beast.
4:53 PM - C.J. Wilson might not be sharp today, but he still owns B.J. Upton. 2 at bats, 2 strikeouts, and now Upton is 0 for 16 against him.
4:56 PM - One out, a man at first, clean-up hitter at the plate, and Ben Zobrist drops down a bunt. Those crazy Rays... How many teams in baseball bat a guy 4th that can even do that?
4:59 PM - Kelly Shoppach, who hit just .176 during the regular season, is now 2 for 2 tonight and just smoked a 3-run home run to centerfield off of Wilson, and now it's 6-0. I don't want to say this game is out of reach because the Rangers have 5 guys in their lineup that hit 25 home runs this season, but it's not looking good. Too early to start talking about Tampa as being a Team of Destiny this year?
|Photo Credit: sports.yahoo.com|
5:02 PM - Speaking of Shoppach, he was 0 for 9 in the 2010 postseason against the Rangers.
5:04 PM - Speaking of which, let's talk about last year's Division Series between the Rays and Rangers. That series went the full 5 games with the road team winning every game in the series. A quick recap:
Game 1: Cliff Lee tosses 7 innings and fans 10 while the Rangers get home runs from Nelson Cruz and Bengie Molina as Texas beats David Price and the Rays 5-1.
Game 2: C.J. Wilson was a lot more successful against the Rays in last year's postseason as he threw 6 1/3 shutout innings and gave up just 2 hits in a 6-0 win. Ian Kinsler and Michael Young both homered and James Shields was chased early.
Game 3: The Rays score 2 in the 8th and 3 in the 9th to erase a late 2-1 lead and win Game 3 by a score of 6-3. Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena both homered in the 9th for the Rays while Kinsler and Cruz each hit their second home runs of the series.
Game 4: Tampa jumps out to an early 5-0 lead against Tommy Hunter and the Rays pen tosses 4 scoreless innings in relief of Wade Davis as the Rays even the series with a 5-2 win. Evan Longoria homered for Tampa while Cruz hit his 3rd home run of the series off of Davis in the 6th.
Game 5: Cliff Lee gets the best of David Price for the second time in the series as the Rangers take the game 5-1 and the series 3-2. Ian Kinsler put the game out of reach in the 9th with a 2-run homer off Rafael Soriano, his 3rd home run of the series.
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5:09 PM - Ian Kinsler draws a 2-out walk, but Elvis Andrus lines out to Casey Kotchman to end the 3rd inning. Moore cruising through 3 innings allowing just 1 hit and 1 walk while fanning 3. More importantly, he's only had to throw 41 pitches.
5:11 PM - This has nothing to do with this game, but Terry Francona will apparently not be back as the Red Sox manager next season. WOW. I'm a little surprised by how things are playing out in the aftermath of the Red Sox collapse. I mean, you knew there was going to be a scapegoat, but the way the story is coming out right now, it's not that Boston fired Francona, it's Francona opting out of Boston. Makes you wonder what was going on behind closed doors there. Were there that many issues in the Sox clubhouse? We may never know the answer to that, but regardless, Boston's going to be looking for a new manager. I hear Grady Little is available.
|Photo Credit: espn.go.com|
5:14 PM - C.J. Wilson just hasn't been sharp today. He's been missing up a lot and now he's issued a leadoff walk to Jennings, the guy who hasn't gotten a hit in over a week. Scott Feldman is up and ready in the bullpen, so if Wilson gets in any trouble here in the 4th, he's done.
|Photo Credit: zimbio.com|
5:18 PM - Well, at least Upton didn't strike out this time. Wilson gets out of the 4th unscathed as Upton grounds into a fielder's choice dropping him to 0 for 17 against the Rangers lefty.
5:21 PM - You forget one down and the whole stadium turns against you! I love these All-State Mayhem adds. They crack me up.
5:22 PM - Well, at least Josh Hamilton showed up for Texas today. Hamilton smokes a double over Joyce's head in right and he's 2 for 2 and the Rangers have their first runner in scoring position here in the bottom of the 4th. That'll bring up Michael Young. Young's a great story this year, because if you'll recall back in Spring Training, he wanted out of Texas after they signed Adrian Beltre and told Young he'd need to change positions yet again. All Young did was deliver his 6th 200+ hit season and set a career high with 106 runs batted in while batting a career best .338.
5:26 PM - Well, the Rangers don't have a runner in scoring position any more. Beltre smokes one to short but right at Rodriguez catching Hamilton in no-man's land and he's tagged out at second for the second out.
5:29 PM - After a wild pitch gets Beltre to second base, Moore fans Napoli to end the inning. The 22 year old rookie now has 4 strikeouts through 4 shutout innings. If you put his one regular season start together with his first 4 innings here, his line looks like this: 9 innings, 6 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks, 15 strikeouts. Not bad, right? Oh by the way, that's 5 innings at Yankee Stadium and 4 innings in Arlington. No homefield advantage to speak of. Also worth noting, you're talking about the 2nd and 3rd highest scoring teams in the majors this year. Note to self: Remember this guy for fantasy baseball next year.
5:42 PM - Holy Shoppach! The Tampa Bay catcher crushes a two run home run with two outs after Johnny Damon reaches on an error and now it's 8-0! Shoppach is 3 for 3 with a pair of homers and 5 runs batted in. Wilson was starting to look good too striking out Longoria and Zobrist and getting Damon to hit a little squibber to third base. But Beltre's throw was high and Shoppach made it hurt. This is why earlier today I said Joe Maddon should be manager of the year. Just making all the right decisions. I mean, Kelly Shoppach? Matt Moore? Really? Team of Destiny, I'm telling you.
|Photo Credit: zimbio.com|
5:52 PM - Through 5 innings now and it's 8-0 Tampa. Moore fans Cruz again to give him 5 strikeouts on the day. He's needed just 74 pitches so far and he's given up the two hits to Hamilton, a walk to Kinsler and he hit Gentry, but that's been it. And now the Rays have James Shields, David Price and Jeremy Hellickson just waiting in the wings. The Rangers could be in some trouble here.
5:56 PM - Scott Feldman in the game now for the Rangers as Wilson's day ends having gone 5 innings and allowing 7 hits, 8 runs (6 earned), he walked 1 and fanned 6, but surrendered the three big home runs. Feldman won 17 games for the Rangers back in 2009 but struggled last year and made just 11 appearances, including 2 starts, for the Rangers this year.
5:58 PM - And Desmond Jennings' struggles continue as he grounds out to extend his hitless streak to 28 at bats.
6:06 PM - And the Rangers finally get a runner to third base against Moore in the 6th, but it's no use. Adrian Beltre flies out to end the "threat" and now we're through 6 and Josh Hamilton is still the only Ranger with a hit.
|Photo Credit: zimbio.com|
6:10 PM - No more Wilson, no problem for Upton as he hammers the first pitch he sees over Hamilton's head in center for a leadoff double.
6:17 PM - Feldman able to keep the Rays off the board despite Upton's leadoff double getting strikeouts of Longoria and Zobrist before inducing a flyball off the bat of Damon. He hasn't had to face Shoppach yet though who will lead off the Rays 8th. While Tampa has a comfortable lead, they know firsthand how quickly things can change having erased a 7-0 lead themselves just 2 nights ago to clinch a postseason berth.
6:21 PM - Moore is the second youngest pitcher to start Game 1 of a Division Series game. The only younger pitcher to do so was Rick Ankiel for the Cardinals back in 2000. Suffice it to say, Moore's fairing a bit better than Ankiel did, as that was the game when Ankiel threw a forgettable 5 wild pitches in the 3rd inning and he was never the same after that.
|Photo Credit: hardballtalk.nbcsports.com|
6:27 PM - Moore breezes through the 7th inning getting Mike Napoli on strikes for the second time, giving him 6 K's on the evening. I can't undersell just how good Moore has been. His night is probably done now as he's reached 98 pitches, but wow did he make them count. 7 innings 2 hits 0 runs.
6:32 PM - The Rangers finally get Shoppach out as Feldman gets him on strikes. Still, an unbelievable performance by Shoppach today. Feldman not doing bad either as he now has 4 strikeouts through 2 1/3 innings.
6:35 PM - Jennings gets a hit! The 0 for 28 skid is over! Everything going Tampa's way today. Well, except that C.J. Wilson still owns B.J. Upton.
6:40 PM - The Rays bullpen takes over here in the bottom of the 8th as Brandon Gomes, another rookie, comes in to face a pinch hitter David Murphy. Murphy, who will likely take over for Gentry in left, started his career with Boston and was sent to Texas in the disastrous Eric Gagne deal back in 2007. And Gomes fans him here in the 8th. Gomes appeared in 40 games for the Rays this year and had a 2.92 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 37 innings of work.
6:45 PM - Gomes throws a good breaking ball down and away and Kinsler, unable to check his swing, goes down on strikes. Tampa's rookies just dominating on the mound tonight.
6:46 PM - 8 innings down, 8-0 Rays. Did anyone predict things to be so one-sided?
6:49 PM - Hahah, I just remembered that at one point this season, the Rays had Manny Ramirez on their team. I wonder how their season would have turned out if he hadn't "retired".
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6:54 PM - Zobrist misses an opportunity to expand the lead as he grounds out softly to third with runners on second and third and one out. And that's it for Harrison. He goes 2/3 of an inning allowing a hit, a walk, and throwing a wild pitch. Interesting. Not sure what to make of this strategy. Especially since they're going with another lefty.
6:57 PM - And the new pitcher is former Pirate Mike Gonzalez. The Rangers acquired the lefty from Baltimore at the trade deadline.
6:58 PM - Tough hop on Andrus and everyone is safe. They're calling it a single as Damon beats the throw to first and now it's 9-0. And up to the plate steps Albert Pujols. I mean Kelly Shoppach.
7:00 PM - Shoppach starting to look like Shoppach again as he fans for the second straight time. Doesn't matter though as Tampa leads 9-0 heading to the bottom of the 9th.
7:04 PM - Wade Davis comes in to pitch the 9th, and he'll make his first relief appearance... EVER. Davis started Game 4 of last year's NLDS and went 11-10 with a 4.45 ERA this season in the Rays rotation.
7:05 PM - James Shields against Derek Holland tomorrow for Game 2 by the way
7:09 PM - Beltre pops out to first and that's all she wrote. Rays 9 Rangers 0. ZERO. Fear the Rays! We'll talk a quick break now and chronicle the Tigers - Yankees game in a little bit.
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