The Narrative: In their first playoff game back at Tropicana Field since last year when the home team was beaten out by the eventual American League Champion Texas Rangers, the Tampa Bay Rays didn’t appear to be very team of destinyish, going down 4-3 to the same pesky Rangers who have never lost a single playoff game in Tampa Bay.

The Rays got off to a great start with an early lead thanks to a Desmond Jennings home run and solid pitching from David Price. However, even though Price limited the Rangers to only four hits after six innings, he just didn’t appear to be as dominant as the scoreline indicated, only striking out three batters.

In the seventh, things started to unwind, and the Rays bullpen, which had been so effective this season, couldn’t bail Price out and ended up causing damage of its own thanks to a timely hit from Josh Hamilton.

Anatomy Of A Stalled Come Back

Rangers manager Ron Washington went to Mike Adams to start the eighth inning. The first batter he faced, Desmond Jennings, hit his second solo home run of the game, reducing his team’s deficit to a single run. B.J. Upton then walked on six pitches.

Then, with Evan Longoria up to bat, Upton decided that the offense needed a boost. I don’t think a single person watching the game was surprised when he took off for second base, and as such, there was also no one watching the game that was surprised he was unceremoniously caught trying to steal second base. You see, Mr. Upton, there’s always plenty of cheese in a mouse trap.

Despite Upton’s questionable decision to attempt a steal, Longoria drew a walk from Adams, as did the next batter Matt Joyce. Washington had seen enough. The manager went to left hander Mike Gonzalez to face left handed hitter Johnny Damon, who then struck out. Gonzalez gave way to closer Neftali Feliz to face Ben Zobrist. And the rest is history.

Zobrist swung and missed on the first pitch slider in the dirt. He fouled off another slider to go down 0-2, but a subsequent wild pitch moved the runners up. Zobrist then fouled off another and took a close pitch for ball two and fouled off yet another four seam fastball before ultimately succumbing to a cutter that was no where near the strike zone.

Just imagine what could’ve been if Ron Washington had considered bringing Feliz into the game earlier during last season’s playoffs.

The Most Important Play Of The Game

Mike Napoli, coming back from being down in the count 0-2, to hit a seventh inning two run home run off of David Price. It improved the probability of the Texas Rangers winning by 31.6%

The Biggest Disappointment Of The Game

With one out in the ninth, Neftali Feliz induced a game ending double play off the bat of Game One hero Kelly Shoppach. Such is baseball. The single play reduced the Rays probability of winning by 18.1%

The Shamsky Award

Named after Art Shamsky, who single handedly increased the Cincinnati Reds’ chances of winning by 150.3% in a losing effort during a game in 1966, The Shamsky Award is given to the player on the losing team who contributes the most to them winning.

With two solo home runs, Desmond Jennings did almost everything he could to bring victory to the home crowd. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. But by increasing his team’s probability of winning by 23.2%, he did more in a losing effort than any other player on his team.

The Aggravating Thing That The Managers Did

Does Ron Washington remember last year’s playoffs? Mike Adams started the eighth inning, gave up a home run, then three straight walks before being pulled for Mike Gonzalez, who came into the game only to face Johnny Damon. Closer Neftali Feliz then came into the game to strike out Ben Zobrist to end the inning.

Desmond Jennings would never be asked to bunt on my team, and J.P. Howell is not the name that comes to mind when I think of bringing in a pitcher to get Josh Hamilton out. There’s absolutely no reason to allow B.J. Upton to run after walking in the eighth inning.

The Statistics You Won’t Believe

This season, the Tampa Bay Rays gave David Price a total 18 runs of support in his 13 losses.

Desmond Jennings now has more home runs at the Major League level than at Triple A.

Neftali Feliz threw 25+ pitches tonight. He threw that many seven times this year, with five of those games ending up as blown saves. Not so much tonight though.

Carefully Selected Quote Cliche Of The Game

From Baseball Prospectus, tonight I’ll go with Colby Lewis’ perspective:

You just have to focus on taking it one inning, one pitch at a time. My job is to keep it close and good things are going to happen. I just wanted to win the game. I was throwing my normal game like I pitch to any other team. I thought I was throwing a lot of strikes. I would say every time I go out there I get better and better mentally.

Stray Observations Of The Game

Mike Napoli stole a base in the second inning. Let’s just dwell on that for a little while. I’m guessing that the Texas Rangers don’t think very highly of John Jaso’s arm.

Was it just me, or did the strike zone seem enormous until about the seventh inning and then it was tightened right up?

I love counting swinging strikes, and as much fun as it is to see a batter whiff on a breaking pitch, Adrian Beltre’s swing and misses on back to back David Price high heat offerings was probably one of the best things I saw tonight.

One of my criticisms of Brandon Morrow is that he’s constantly throwing the same type of pitch in a similar area of the strike zone. Batters adjust and then they hit him harder the third time through the order. Tonight, Colby Lewis was putting different pitches everywhere in the strike zone.

A very lively crowd in Tampa Bay tonight.

The Rays, a club that many suggested were a team of destiny, is one loss away from being knocked out again at the hands of the Rangers.

 

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