In Friday night’s game, the Rays and Rangers put on a hitting display; unfortunately the Rangers were the only ones who showed up on Saturday night. Starter Colby Lewis picked up his 3rd win of the season for the Rangers as they handled the Rays from start to finish. Jeff Niemann gave his 5 plus innings again tonight, but the Rays’ bats could not figure out Colby Lewis and the Rangers’ tough bullpen.
The Rays could not duplicate their hot start to Friday’s win, as they left two men on base in the 1st inning. Texas did stay hot in the 1st, as Josh Hamilton singled home Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus with no outs in the inning. Hamilton reached 3rd after a stolen base and wild pitch, but was stranded there.
Tampa got on the board in the top of the 2nd, as Matt Joyce homered to right field to make it a one run game; the Rays would not get another hit until the 6th inning. Joyce walked in the 4th inning, and Jennings walked and stole second in the 5th inning, but the bats were quiet during the middle innings. Niemann settled down nicely after the 1st inning as well, issuing a walk in each the 3rd and 4th innings, and getting a 1-2-3 inning in the 5th.
Niemann was unable to escape the 6th inning in his start tonight – he has yet to all season – but it was not his fault this time. He entered the 6th with having thrown 91 pitches and gave up back to back singles to Hamilton and Adrian Beltre. He then made a nice stab at a hopper up the middle by Michael Young to start a 1-6-3 double play. With Hamilton at third with two outs, Nelson Cruz hit a ground ball to short stop Elliot Johnson‘s right. Johnson was almost playing in the outfield grass, giving him no margin for error. He couldn’t field the grounder cleanly and Cruz reached first safely on the error, bringing home Hamilton. Niemann’s night was over, as Jake McGee came in to end the inning. He ended up going 5.2 innings, giving up five hits, two earned runs, three walks, and striking out four. I wrote yesterday how Niemann has been erratic in his career, with both good and bad stretches; he has started the 2012 season mediocrely consistent.
The Rays were down two runs going into the top of the 7th, but went down in order. What chance of coming back in the game was squashed as Burke Badenhop entered the game. Badenhop had a 4.00 ERA entering the day, better than most Rays’ relievers, but he could not keep the game in reach. He got the first batter to strike out, but then gave up a double and a single. On a pitch to Andrus, catcher Jose Molina tried to imitate his younger brother Yadier and threw down to 3rd to try and pick off Mitch Moreland. The throw was low and got away from Longoria, as Moreland scored on the error. With two out and a runner on 2nd, Joe Maddon decided to intentionally walk Josh Hamilton. This lineup is so deadly because anyone can make you pay, and Adrian Beltre did just that as he deposited a line drive into the right field seats.
The Rays did get one run back in the 8th after a Desmond Jennings single, stolen base, and a Longoria double; however, it was not nearly enough as the Rangers held onto the 7-2 lead to win the game.
Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre combined for four hits, three runs scored, and five RBI. Longoria had another nice night at the plate, getting two hits and an RBI, and Joyce continued to hit the ball well, hitting his 5th home run of the season. Badenhop’s one bad inning is another reminder of the struggles that the bullpen has had this season. David Price looks to win the series for the Rays tomorrow night at 8:00 against lefty Derek Holland.