The Rays final rally came up one run short Tuesday afternoon against the Texas Rangers. They lost the game 4-3 and the series 3-1. After winning the first game with a rookie on the mound making the second start of his career, the Rays lost three in a row and for the second straight year were eliminated by the Texas Rangers in the divisional round of the American League playoffs.
Jeremy Hellickson wasn’t perfect Tuesday and the Rays offense needed him to be. He faced difficulty right away when he gave up a home run to Ian Kinsler on the second pitch of the game. He settled down to retire the next three batters but again gave up a leadoff home run in the second. That was the first of what would be three solo home runs off the bat of Adrian Beltre. That was really Hellickson only problem today. He gave up just four hits, but three of the hits were homeruns, and two of them were by Beltre. Hellickson wasn’t the only Rays pitcher to have trouble with Beltre. Matt Moore came in to replace Hellickson in the fifth and cruised through the fifth and sixth innings. That came to a screeching halt when Beltre led off the seventh with his third and final home run.
Beltre alone would have tied the Rays, or I guess I should say he would have tied Sean Rodriguez. Rodriguez scored all three runs for the Rays going 1-2, and drawing two walks as well. He scored the first run on a Matt Joyce double, leveling Rangers catcher Mike Napoli and dislodging the ball from Napoli’s glove. Each time Rodriguez scored a run, it pulled the Rays to within one, but they could never get over the hump. The team that had battled from behind all year just did not have enough rally left in it to come back and beat the Rangers.
Texas starter Matt Harrison had both a solid and terrific start to the game. He had nine strikeouts in the first four innings, including striking out the side in the third. He ended up allowing two runs in five innings pitched. which was good enough to get the win. Derek Holland, Mike Adams and Alexi Ogando gave the Rangers three scoreless innings and Neftali Feliz came in to get the save. The Rays showed signs of life in the ninth with a walk by Sean Rodriguez and after he advanced to second on defensive indifference he scored on a single by Casey Kotchman. Joyce popped out and then Desmond Jennings grounded into a fielder’s choice to quiet the Rays one last time.
It’s hard to reflect on the entirety of the season with a playoffs series loss so fresh right now. That is reserved for a later date. Right now the stinging part of this loss is the fact that the Rays couldn’t muster any more offense than they did. Give the Rangers pitching staff credit. They came in an underrated group, but proved against the Rays, they can match any staff in the American League. As strange as it sounds, it almost felt better when the Rays got down in the series, and even when they fell behind early in game four, it felt like they would come back to win. Unfortunately for the Rays, time ran out on them and their season, and all the joy felt just a week ago is replaced by the heartbreak and finality of losing in the playoffs.