As far as the feeling in my stomach goes, Saturday’s 8-6 loss in Arlington just doesn’t even come close to Monday’s 4-3 loss in St. Petersburg.
Game 3 started off well enough. When we were through three innings, it looked like David Price and Colby Lewis were ready for a pitcher’s duel. Tampa Bay’s Price had allowed three hits, but still had a shutout going. Lewis took control for Texas defensively and did not give up a single hit in the first third of the game.
In the bottom of the fourth, rookie Desmond Jennings went yard with the Rays’ first hit of the day.
Neither team could send a man home in the fifth or sixth inning. Then came the seventh.
Texas leadoff man Adrian Beltre singled and then reached second on a wild pitch by Price. Mike Napoli, the man who heard his name chanted in Texas on Saturday, was up next. If the series was still in Arlington, he would’ve heard chants again after he homered to left.
Price seemed to settle down a bit and was able to get Nelson Cruz and Mitch Moreland to ground out. Then Craig Gentry singled and Brandon Gomes was called upon to relieve Price.
Gentry stole second, then Gomes walked Ian Kinsler. Then we witnessed a double steal by Gentry and Kinsler. Gomes walked Elvis Andrus and the Rays looked to reliever J.P. Howell.
At that time, I had to look away. I have not felt comfortable watching Howell on the hill all year long. This time, Howell faced Josh Hamilton. No big deal, right? Hamilton, as he tends to do, got a hit. His single allowed Gentry and Kinsler to score and the Rays saw themselves on the bad end of a 4-1 ballgame.
Juan Cruz came in to replace Howell and Tampa Bay got Andrus out on a fielder’s choice.
The Rays looked like they were ready to get on a roll when they had one out in the bottom of the seventh. First came Johnny Damon’s single, then Ben Zobrist’s single and finally Casey Kotchman’s single. With the bases loaded, Sean Rodriguez came in to pinch hit for John Jaso. SRod grounded out and Damon crossed the plate to bring the Rays within two.
Sam Fuld entered the game to hit for Reid Brignac, but Fuld couldn’t reach a legendary level. He grounded out to second to end the inning with two men stranded.
Mercifully, Cruz got the Rays out of the top of the eighth quickly. In the bottom of the inning, Mike Adams came to the mound for Texas to relieve Alexi Ogando.
For the second time in the game, Desmond Jennings kicked off the inning with a solo shot. B.J. Upton walked and for a very brief moment I felt that all was well. Then Upton was caught stealing second. Ugh.
Adams walked Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce before he was pulled in favor of Mike Gonzalez. Gonzalez got Damon to strike out swinging before Neftali Feliz entered the game to get the final four outs for Texas.
The runners advanced on a wild pitch by Feliz, but he struck out Ben Zobrist to end the threat.
Joel Peralta came in to close the game for Tampa Bay and while I held my breath, or felt like I was holding my breath, he faced four batters. Peralta gave up a hit, but did not allow the Rangers to pad their lead.
Casey Kotchman popped out to begin the final frame. SRod singled and then Kelly Shoppach came to the plate. Shop battled to a full count and fouled off several pitches before grounding into a game ending double play.
It’s too bad the #Shoppachalypse cannot continue to exist based on sheer will alone.
The Rays must win tomorrow at 2pm to stay alive in the 2011 postseason. I’ll be at the Trop, hoping that I’ll get to send them off to Arlington for Game 5.