Rangers forced to decisive Game 5 by Rays
Texas must take to road to claim franchise's first ALCS berth
ARLINGTON -- Tuesday night. Tropicana Field. Cliff Lee vs. David Price. Winner-take-all.The Rangers would have preferred it not come down to that. But that's what's staring them in the face after they failed for the second straight day to win a playoff game in their own ballpark. The remaining American League Division Series is going to a Game 5 after the Rangers fell to the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-2, on Sunday afternoon at the Ballpark in Arlington. That evens up a best-of-five series in which the visiting team has won all four games.
"Cliff Lee was made for this moment," Rangers third baseman Michael Young said. "This should be a lot of fun."The Rangers will be back in the visiting dugout on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field when they send Lee to the mound to face Price. The two faced off in Game 1 last Wednesday and the Rangers came away with a 5-1 victory. "We take a lot of confidence into every game," outfielder David Murphy said. "We know we're a good team and capable of winning every game. We didn't get it done [Saturday] and we didn't get it done today. But we still feel confident we can go out and get it done and play great on Tuesday." Rangers starter Tommy Hunter gave up three runs (two earned) in four innings and Derek Holland gave up a big two-run home run to Evan Longoria in the fifth. That gave the Rays a 5-0 lead, and the Rangers, held scoreless for five innings by Rays rookie right-hander Wade Davis, couldn't catch up. Instead, their offense has scored just five runs in their last 22 innings after going 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position on Sunday. The Rangers are now 0-6 in the postseason at the Ballpark in Arlington since the facility opened in 1994. "We would have like to have gotten it done here, but we didn't," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "Now we have to go to Tampa Bay. When the bell rings Tuesday night, it should be exciting." The Rangers will be trying to avoid being the fifth team in Major League history to win the first two games of a Division Series and then lose the next three. That hasn't happened since 2003, when the Athletics won the first two games against the Red Sox and lost the next three. It also happened to the Athletics in 2001, when they won the first two games at Yankee Stadium and then lost three straight to the Yankees. The 2001 Athletics are the only team in LDS history to win the first two games on the road and then lose three straight. The 1999 Indians and the 1995 Mariners also won the first two games of an ALDS -- both times at home -- and then lost three straight. "It's a five-game series," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We took two at their place, they took two at ours. So this is what it's all about. It's down to one game. We've got Cliff going and we certainly feel good about it. We have proved we can win there, so that's what it is all about. Certainly, we would have liked to have come home and won one game, but we didn't. "So we have to go to Tampa and do it. So Cliff is the guy." The Rangers wanted Hunter to be the guy in Game 4. They could have brought Lee back on three days' rest but instead preferred to go with their 13-game winner. But Hunter ran hot-and-cold through four innings. He struck out seven but four extra-base hits and a costly error led to three runs. "I definitely threw a lot of pitches, and a couple of pitches got too much of the plate," Hunter said. "They took advantage of it. But for the most part, I did what I wanted to do with the ball. They just got some timely hits." In Tampa Bay, the Rangers won two games because they had fabulous pitching but also because they scored early and often. That hasn't been the case at home. On Sunday, that's what the Rays did to them. "It's frustrating not getting it done here," Murphy said. "But you can't dwell on what happened. We've got a quick turnaround, we've got one game to win and we've got to get it done." Carlos Pena caused considerable damage for the Rays on Sunday, beginning with a one-out triple in the top of the second. Matt Joyce followed with a high pop into short right. Kinsler went backpedaling for it and right fielder Nelson Cruz, having trouble with the early afternoon sun and shadows, was too late coming in for it. Kinsler almost got there but, the ball ticked off his glove for an error, allowing Pena -- who was not tagging up -- to score. "It just drifted on me," Kinsler said. "I kept on going back and I just couldn't catch up to it."
That gave the Rays a 1-0 lead and they added two more in the fourth. Longoria and Pena led off with a pair of doubles to bring home one run. Hunter struck out the next two hitters, but B.J. Upton lined a double to make it 3-0.That was the last inning for Hunter. Holland took over in the fifth but gave up a two-run home run to Longoria that gave the Rays a 5-0 lead. The Rangers, after squandering multiple opportunities, scored two in the sixth but that was it. The next step was to make plans for a quick round-trip to Tampa Bay. They are still one win away from advancing to the AL Championship Series for the first time in franchise history. "It will be for all the marbles," Young said. "We're excited. We would have liked to have celebrated in front of the home crowd, but it didn't work out that way. We don't feel any additional pressure. It's all about playing well in postseason. We have a ton of confidence in ourselves and will on Tuesday."
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.