Rangers, bullpen unable to put away Rays
Largest Ballpark crowd watches late rally off Oliver, Feliz
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers were five outs away from going to the American League Championship Series. They are not there yet.Instead, their Division Series with the Rays is going to a Game 4 after Tampa Bay rallied for 6-3 victory on Saturday evening at the Ballpark in Arlington. The Rangers, who were up 2-0 in the series, had a 2-1 lead going into the top of the eighth before the Rays rallied for two runs against left-hander Darren Oliver and right-handed closer Neftali Feliz. "They beat us," Oliver said. "They beat me. They beat us in all facets of the game."
The Rays, with a 3-2 lead, then broke it open in the ninth on Carl Crawford's solo home run off Feliz and a two-run home run by Carlos Pena off Dustin Nippert. But Pena's biggest hit was a game-tying single in the bottom of the eighth against Oliver. The other big hit was John Jaso's two-out single that inning, bringing home the go-ahead run.The Rangers will send Tommy Hunter to the mound for Game 4 against Wade Davis for the Rays at noon CT on Sunday. The Rangers must win or face the prospect of going back to Tampa Bay for a winner-take-all Game 5 on Tuesday at Tropicana Field. "There isn't any panic in here," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "They beat us. We're still up 2-1. They scored six runs and they earned every one of them. We didn't mess up. They swung the bats and scored runs. They're a good team. It's not going to be easy. We'll be back tomorrow. I don't know what will happen, but we'll be here." The Rangers drew 51,746 fans, the largest crowd to witness a game at the Ballpark in Arlington. But they still have never won a playoff game on their home turf, as Saturday's loss left them 0-5 in Ballpark postseason history. "We lost the game," third baseman Michael Young said. "There's no need to dissect the game. They had some good at-bats late in the game. We'll come back tomorrow." The Rangers, with Colby Lewis on the mound, led, 1-0, through five and then Washington used every reliever in the bullpen trying to close this one out. He even suggested that Cliff Lee and C.J. Wilson -- the winning pitchers in the first two games of the series -- were available if needed. But it really came down to the Rays beating Oliver and Feliz, the Rangers' two best relievers. The Rangers had them ready to go after Ian Kinsler, leading off the bottom of the seventh inning, gave his team a 2-1 lead when he turned on a 94 mph full-count fastball from Matt Garza. Kinsler hit it high and deep down the left-field line for his second home run of the series and possibly the one that would bring the affair to a successful conclusion. "I was hoping to be the difference," Kinsler said. "I wanted to be the difference. We needed six more outs." Oliver, who had pitched a scoreless seventh, went back out for the eighth. The Rays had three left-handed hitters coming up and Oliver felt good enough to keep going. "I still feel I had something left," Oliver said. Matt Joyce was first, but right-handed hitter Sean Rodriguez pinch-hit for him and struck out. Designated hitter Dan Johnson was next and he ripped a first-pitch slider on a line to deep right just beyond the glove of Nelson Cruz. Johnson ended up at second with a double and Desmond Jennings went in to pinch-run for him. "I was just trying to get ahead and he put a good swing on it," Oliver said. Oliver got ahead 1-and-2 on Pena. But then Pena lined a fastball into right field and Jennings came around with the tying run. "He just battled me," Oliver said. "He battled me pretty good and finally got a pitch to hit." With the score tied at 2, Washington brought in right-hander Darren O'Day, who struck out B.J. Upton. That brought up Jason Bartlett, another right-hander who was 3-for-5 against O'Day in his career. With Jaso, a left-handed hitter, on deck, Washington decided to bring in Feliz. "I had Neftali, I was going to use him on Jaso anyway," Washington said. "And in the case of O'Day, Bartlett had good numbers against him. Since I was going to use Neftali anyway against Jaso, I figured I would bring him in to get one. He would be there in the ninth inning to get the one." But Feliz walked Bartlett and then hung an 0-2 slider to Jaso, who lined a single to center to bring home the go-ahead run. "My control ... it wasn't there, but I felt good," Feliz said. "There was nothing wrong with me or my arm. I was just missing pitches." Feliz got out of that inning by getting Ben Zobrist to fly to right. But the damage was done and former teammate Joaquin Benoit set down the Rangers in order in the bottom of the eighth. Then the Rays put it away in the ninth -- rendering Cruz's ninth-inning home run meaningless -- and the Rangers still need one more win to advance to the ALCS for the first time in club history. "They beat us," outfielder David Murphy said. "That's all there is to it. They rallied, put together some good at-bats and fought hard. We didn't expect them to give it to us. They're a good team. But we've played solid the whole series and we don't expect anything different tomorrow."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.