The Narrative: The Texas Rangers, on the back of their starting pitching and a three home run game from Adrian Beltre, beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 today to clinch their ticket to the ALCS for the second straight year.
It was also the second straight year that the team of destiny Rays were beaten in the ALDS at home by the Rangers, ending their run less than a week after beating the odds and making the playoffs in dramatic fashion in the final game of the regular season.
The Rays made it exciting at the end, with Sean Rodriguez scoring his third run of the game in the ninth inning on a Casey Kotchman single, but it wasn’t enough to compete with four solo home runs and an efficient Neftali Feliz. The Rangers rotation and bullpen will be in good shape for the start of the ALCS on Saturday, October 8th.
Anatomy Of A Three Home Run Game
In the history of baseball only Babe Ruth (twice), Reggie Jackson, Bob Robertson, George Brett, Adam Kennedy and now Adrian Beltre have hit three home runs in a single playoff game.
This is how it happened.
Leading off the second inning against Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson, Beltre took a first pitch fastball for ball one and then crushed the second fastball he saw all the way into the left field seats.
With one out in the fourth inning, Beltre didn’t take his bat off his shoulder until he saw a fastball with the fourth pitch of the at bat. Taking inside heat deep in his last at bat, this time he extended to reach on the outside part of the plate and sent the ball hurtling the opposite way.
After a three up / three down sixth inning, Rays rookie pitcher Matt Moore stayed in the game to start the seventh inning. His first pitch, a four seam fastball up in the zone, was clobbered by Beltre, once again into deep left field.
Altogether, Beltre’s three home runs contributed 35.2% to the probability of the Rangers winning their third game in a row and heading to the American League Championship Series.
The Most Important Play Of The Game
While they were all very meaningful to the game, Beltre’s third home run off Matt Moore in the seventh inning put the biggest dent in the Rays chances of a come back increasing the Rangers probability of winning by 12.4% at the time.
The Biggest Disappointment Of The Game
With none out and a base runner on first in the fifth inning, B.J. Upton came up to bat against the impressive Matt Harrison. After going down 0-2 in the count, Upton eventually popped one up in foul territory that third baseman Adrian Beltre snagged for the first out in the inning. In his other three at bats today, Upton struck out each time. He single-handedly reduced his team’s chances of winning by 12.8% with his plate appearances today. #Ugly
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.
Casey Kotchman went two for four today, knocking in Sean Rodriguez twice, good enough for the biggest contribution from a Rays player with a 12.6% increase in WPA. It will be interesting to see what happens with Kotchman this off season, as he will most certainly seek a raise from the $750,000 he made this year.
The Aggravating Thing That The Managers Did
Watching Joel Peralta dispose of Josh Hamilton couldn’t help but make me think that this might have been a completely different series if he was used in yesterday’s game by Joe Maddon instead of J.P. Howell.
Once again, Ron Washington, who was roundly criticized for his use of the bullpen in last year’s playoffs, used his relievers very well. Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando and Neftali Feliz all recorded shutdowns with their appearances this afternoon.
The Statistics You Won’t Believe
Jeremy Hellickson had never given up more than two home runs in a game until today.
Matt Harrison had nine strikeouts after four innings today. That equaled his career high.
Matt Moore’s relief appearance to start the fifth inning was the first time he has ever taken the mound at Tropicana Field.
The two third basemen in this series ranked one and two by WAR among players at their position this season.
Carefully Selected Quote Cliche Of The Game
From Baseball Prospectus, today, we’ll go with, who else, Adrian Beltre’s perspective:
I wasn’t looking for the pitch at all, but he just threw it over the plate and I put a good swing on it. They left a couple of pitches over the plate and I took advantage of them.
Stray Observations Of The Game
I think I received a sympathy concussion after Mike Napoli got his bell rung by Sean Rodriguez on the home plate collision that led to the Rays first run of the game in the second inning.
I would’ve been far more enthusiastic about the safe call if Rodriguez had touched the plate before it was given.
I suppose it could have been worse for Napoli. He could have been this guy:
I wonder if there was a method to the madness. As a team, the Rays have a reputation for not being able to get on base against hard throwing left handed pitchers with high ground ball rates, so they took a ton of pitches over the first three innings from Matt Harrison. It resulted in seven strikeouts, but a tuckered out starter.
Matt Joyce struck out swinging to end the fourth inning. The first pitch was a curveball right down the middle of the plate, and Joyce took a hard whiff on it, obviously expecting a fastball.
So, Matt Moore might be something of a keeper.
A good decision by Ron Washington to bring Matt Harrison out of the game when he did. Yes, he was only at 96 pitches, but that’s deep enough in the playoffs and Derek Holland, despite his troubles in Game Two, was one of the Rangers best pitchers in the second half.
Johnny Damon diving head first at first base makes about as much sense, as this does:
Adrian Beltre = Absolute Monster.
Walking David Murphy is like tipping the person who takes your order at McDonald’s.
B.J. Upton looked awful today in his four at bats. Three strikeouts and an infield pop out do not a great impression make. He’s making $4.825 million this year and set to go into his final year of arbitration. I’m pretty sure Desmond Jennings wouldn’t have much of a problem playing center field. I’m just saying is all.