The only thing hotter than Jeff Niemann the last couple months has been the Texas weather. Sorry, Texans, but after Thursday, only Niemann has cooled off. Coming into the last game of a three game series with the Rangers, Niemann was 8-1 in his last 12 starts. The one loss was to the Detroit Tigers and Cy Young favorite, Justin Verlander.
The game started smoothly enough with a three up, three down inning. In the second, leadoff hitter Michael Young grounded out, followed by a single from Adrian Beltre. David Murphy doubled to the gap in right centerfield to bring home Beltre and was driven in himself by a Yorvit Torrealba single. Endy Chavez drove in Torrealba with a triple to right and the Rangers were up 3-0. Niemann would walk Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus before inducing a ground ball from Josh Hamilton to end the inning. In the fifth, the Rangers built the lead to 5-0 after solo home runs from Kinsler and Michael Young and Niemann’s night was done.
With the way the Rays offense has been performing of late, and the fact that C.J. Wilson was on the mound, 3-0 seemed out of reach and 5-0 felt just impossible. Wilson carried a perfect game into the sixth before a single by Casey Kotchman. He was erased in a double play off the bat of Evan Longoria, just before Kelly Shoppach got Tampa on the board with a solo home run.
The Rays had some life in the seventh when Sean Rodriguez was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning followed by an Evan Longoria walk. Ron Washington brought in reliever Koji Uehara and he struck out Ben Zobrist and B.J. Upton back-to-back. Joe Maddon then called on Matt Joyce to pinch hit for rookie Brandon Guyer. Joyce delivered an RBI single up the middle but the rally was squelched when Kotchman came up and grounded out to short.
The Rangers answered with Kinsler’s second solo home run of the night and another run in the eighth. Texas’ bullpen finished off the game with two scoreless innings and the Rays fly home to Tampa to start a three game series with the Baltimore Orioles. Their playoff hopes on life support, they need a sweep worse than the cement floor in a saw mill. The Rays are just 6-6 against the Orioles this season including a sweep by the Orioles at the Trop to open the season.