BY: Richard W. Humphrey
David Price shut down the Rangers 5-2 in Arlington Monday night to qualify the Rays for the second American League Wild Card spot in this year’s playoffs. Tampa Bay will meet Cleveland Wednesday night in the Wild Card play-in game with the winner joining Division champions Boston, Detroit and Oakland in a four team tournament to determine the American League representative in the World Series.
Price, the reigning A. L. Cy Young Award winner, has struggled with Texas in the past. He came in with a 1-7, record and 6.62 ERA against the Rangers. That included 0-3 in post season play. Monday night though, he threw a complete game at the Rangers to save the weary Rays’ bullpen. He was shaky early, but was helped immensely by a pair of pick-offs in the first three innings. Elvis Andrus was picked off first in the first inning, and Ian Kinsler was picked off first and tagged out trying to advance to second in the third inning, as the Rangers gave up two of the first nine outs in the game on the bases. Making outs on bases has been a season long problem for Texas, and it certainly haunted them in game number 163.
Price was the real story though. He finished off the game with 118 pitches, 81 (69%) of which were strikes. The Rangers scored in the third inning as Craig Gentry singled leading off, advanced to second on a ground out and scored on Kinsler’s single. That rally ended abruptly though after Andrus popped out and Kinsler was caught stealing. Texas got their second run in the sixth inning when Alex Rios doubled home Andrus. However, Price retired 11 of the last 12 Ranger batters, as Texas mustered just one more hit in the game after Andrus scored.
Tampa Bay never trailed in the game after taking the early lead with a Desmond Jennings sacrifice fly in the first inning. Rays’ batters had three singles and a walk in the inning, and the Rangers were fortunate to hold Tampa to one run. Evan Longoria hit his 32nd home run in the third inning with a runner aboard to extend the lead to 3-0. Longoria also scored the Rays’ fourth run in the sixth inning as he doubled and came across the plate on David Dejesus’s double. Longoria was the offensive player of the game, finishing the night 3-4 with the home run, two RBIs and two runs scored. Tampa’s final run scored in the ninth inning as Sam Fuld left second early in an attempt to steal third base. Tanner Scheppers was on the mound, saw Fuld make the break, but threw wildly to third base to allow Fuld not only to be safe at third, but to score on the throwing error.
Rookie Martin Perez started for Texas and gave up the first three runs as he pitched into the sixth inning. He struck out five, walked two and allowed four hits. He was charged with the loss bringing his season record to 10-6. It was a fine rookie campaign that establishes Perez as part of the starting rotation as the Rangers plan for 2014. Five Ranger relievers finished the game
Nelson Cruz returned from a 50 game drug suspension to bat sixth Monday night as the Rangers’ designated hitter. He was 0-4 with a strikeout, two ground outs and a line out, in what could be his last game as a Ranger. He is eligible to be a free agent this winter.
The Ranger season is over with 91 wins. It’s the fifth highest win total in Ranger history, and they join Tampa Bay as the only two teams in baseball with at least 90 wins in each of the past four seasons. There already has been and there will continue to be finger pointing as the media tries to place blame for the Rangers’ failure to reach post season play for the fourth consecutive year. Quite frankly, there is no blame to be placed. The Rangers are in a transition period as the window of opportunity has closed on the team that went to the World Series in 2010 and 2011. Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Mike Napoli, and everybody that caught in those seasons are gone from those two teams; a major portion of the offense. Texas tried to fill the gaps this year with one year contracts to A. J. Pierzynski and Lance Berkman. The Rangers also have Cruz, David Murphy, Matt Garza and essentially Joe Nathan as possible free agents this winter. (The Rangers hold a team option on Nathan, but it became a mutual option once he completed 55 games this year, effectively giving Nathan the right to become a free agent.)
This Ranger team was much different from last year’s, and next year’s will differ greatly from this year’s, as the Rangers seek to re-form a team that can win a World Series. Winning 91 games in a transition year is a significant accomplishment, and Ranger fans that feel otherwise are simply spoiled from the success of the past three seasons. There is a fine pitching talent base going forward, so the Rangers are in good shape to successfully re-form the team in coming years. Texas fans have much to look forward to.
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