McAdam at the ALCS: Rangers blow game, and opportunity

McAdam at the ALCS: Rangers blow game, and opportunity

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- In a subdued clubhouse, the Texas Rangers kept saying all the right things in the apparent belief that if they repeated them often enough and earnestly enough, soon they would come to believe their own words.

The Rangers had led the New York Yankees 5-0 after six innings of Game One of the American League Championship Series ,and 5-1 after seven. But then their entire bullpen seemed to implode in the eighth and they were left trying to sift through the remains of a deflating 6-5 loss to the Yankees.

Ron Washington had used five different pitchers in the eighth, but not until the eighth Yankee stepped to the plate that inning did a Texas pitcher record an out.

You've heard of teams willingly trading runs for outs in the late innings. The Rangers engaged in another kind of swap -- pitchers for outs. It was a deal they ultimately lived to regret.

Darren O'Day, one of the handful of Rangers relievers who tripped and fell in the eighth, kept repeating that his team now had six chances to win four games, and put like that, the loss didn't sound quite as catastrophic.

Except that, for the Rangers, it was.

It's hard to imagine a bigger shift than the one that occurred in the eighth.

The Rangers had jumped on CC Sabathia for three runs after just three hitters in the bottom of the first and when Michael Young drove a booming double to right-center in the fourth, Texas was perfectly positioned to grab a 1-0 lead in the series.

Beating Sabathia, the Yankees' ace, in Game One would have been a huge momentum boost. Beating the Yankees for just the second time in 11 postseason tries would have calmed some nerves.

Even with a loss Saturday in Game Two, the Rangers would have been set up to take a 2-to-1 lead with a win from Cliff Lee Monday night in New York, halfway home to the World Series.

Instead, the Rangers' late-inning splat means something entirely different.

They couldn't win a game in which they chased their opponent's best starting pitcher after just four innings. They couldn't end their own postseason home losing streak (now at three and counting) and will be forced to answer questions about failing to win at The Ballpark again Saturday.

A win and they would have been in command of the series, early as it is. A win and perhaps this would have been the game they looked back on as the turning point.

A loss, by contrast, makes their quest that much harder, amping up the degree of difficulty in a series that was already plenty challenging. A loss and the Rangers can't help but wonder, privately, if this is where it got away.

"How bad was this one?'' a reporter asked of Darren Oliver, who contributed to the relief meltdown by walking the only two hitters he faced.

"The loss or how we lost it?'' responded Oliver, offering up a multiple-choice answer.

Oliver's answer was revealing. It wasn't just the final score that sat uncomfortably in the Rangers' guts; it was how that score came about.

Had Sabathia stifled them and tossed a shutout, it wouldn't have been as devastating. But they had climbed on Sabathia. They had already done the hard part.

"We should have won that game,'' said Oliver, a veteran of eight different teams across 17 major-league seasons. "Obviously, we thought we had this one. If we tried to do what we did in the eighth inning the next time out, it wouldn't happen.''

Others sounded the notion that, with Game Two starting at 3 p.m. Central time Saturday afternoon, the Rangers would have precious little time to ruminate about this defeat.

"Dude,'' said an exasperated C.J. Wilson, who limited the Yankees to a single run over the first six innings, "it's just one game.''

But in the aftermath of one that got away, it was hard not to feel that the Rangers had already let the ALCS, barely underway, get away from them, too.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 'a pitch or two from finishing the job' vs. Rays

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Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 'a pitch or two from finishing the job' vs. Rays

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay Rays:

QUOTES:

"Part of that job is, when you miss, you have to miss to the extreme.'' - John Farrell on the role of eighth-inning reliever Clay Buchholz, who mislocated a fastball to Evan Longoria.

"We're putting ourselves in position to close games out and yet we've found ourselves a pitch or two from finishing the job.'' - Farrell on the team's bullpen woes.

"Fastball. I was trying to throw it up-and-away, and I pulled it, more inner-third. That's a spot where he hits the ball a long way.'' - Clay Buchholz on the game-winning homer by Longoria.

 

NOTES:

* The Rays and Sox have played 21 one-run games in the lasr four seasons and four in the last week.

* David Ortiz's sacrifice fly in the sixth was his 26th go-ahead RBI, fourth-best in the A.L.

* Xander Bogaerts collected his 500th career hit, and became the fifth Red Sox player to reach that milestone before turning 24.

* Brock Holt's double in the fifth lifted his average to .337 with two outs.

* Hanley Ramirez's home run was his first against Tampa Bay since May 21, 2011 when he was with the Marlins.

* Ramirez has 19 extra-base hits in the last 27 home games.

* Dustin Pedroia was 1-for-3 and and is now 15-for-his-last-19 at Fenway.

* The Sox dropped to 7-37 when they score three runs or fewer.

* Brad Ziegler was unavailable, suffering from the flu.

 

STARS:

1) Evan Longoria

It wouldn't be a Rays win over the Red Sox without the third baseman doing some damage. Sure enough, he smoked a tape-measure shot over everything in left in the eighth to provide the winning margin for the visitors.

2) Luke Maile

Drew Pomeranz struck him out twice, but Maile more than got revenge in the seventh with a two-run homer into the Monster Seats to tie the game.

3) Hanley Ramirez

The first baseman had a three-hit night, including a solo homer and a run-scoring single, accounting for two of the three Red Sox runs.

 

First impressions: Longoria makes Buchholz pay in Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Rays

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First impressions: Longoria makes Buchholz pay in Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Rays

BOSTON - First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay:

* There's a steep learning curve for a set-up man, as Clay Buchholz discovered.

Although he's pitched out of the bullpen for the last couple of months, most of those appearances weren't of the high leverage variety. More often than not, the Sox had a sizeable lead, or Buchholz was brought in earlier in the game. Or they were behind and he was mopping up.

But Tuesday was different. The Rays had battled back to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, and after Matt Barnes got the final out in that inning, Buchholz came in to start the eighth.

After getting Kevin Kiermaier on a groundout to lead off the inning, Buchholz threw a four-seamer to Evan Longoria that the Tampa Bay third baseman launched toward the Charles River, clearing everything and putting the Rays up by a run.

It was a reminder that in late innings of close games, one pitch, with missed location, can really hurt.

 

* Hanley Ramirez knocked in two runs. He was sort of lucky.

In the fifth inning, Ramirez hit a twisting opposite-field fly ball down the right field line. It landed just past the Pesky Pole in right, measured at 307 feet, the shortest homer in baseball this season, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

Then, an inning later, Ramirez hit a pop fly that drifted into shallow right. Three Rays defenders converged -- first baseman, second baseman and right fielder -- and somehow the ball dropped in between all three for a run-scoring single.

Two cheap hits, two RBI.

At times, you'll see hitters mash the ball, only to have it hit right at someone for an out. Rotten luck, and all.

Tuesday night, Ramirez got to experience the flip side of that.

 

* Drew Pomeranz had an excellent outing -- until his final pitch of the night.

Through 6 2/3 innings, Pomeranz had allowed a single run on four hits while walking two and striking out eight.

He had retired 10 of the previous 11 hitters he had faced, and while he was approaching his 100th pitch, showed no evidence of tiring.

Then, Pomernaz hung a curveball to No. 9 hitter Luke Maile -- with two strikes, no less -- and Maile hit into the Monster Seats for a game-tying, two-run homer.

It was the first homer on a curveball allowed by Pomeranz in 153 innings this season, and all of a sudden, the outing wasn't so special.