Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Game of the Day (8/12/14)

Rangers 3, Rays 2 (14). Texas's Nick Tepesch took on Tampa's Jeremy Hellickson, who was making only his fifth start of 2014.

Tepesch was perfect in the first, while Hellickson allowed a hit to Elvis Andrus and nothing else. In the second, Sean Rodriguez reached on an error and was stranded, and Leonys Martin singled and advanced on a wild pitch before being left on as well. Tepesch retired the Rays in order again in the third; Rougned Odor led off the bottom of the inning with a hit but was doubled off on a line drive.

Matt Joyce was hit by a pitch in the top of the fourth, and Adrian Beltre reached second on an error in the bottom of the inning, but like all their baserunning predecessors, both men were left on. Rodriguez led off the fifth with a single, took second on a bunt and third on a wild pitch, then was thrown out at home when Jose Molina grounded to third. The bottom of the inning saw singles from both Martin and Odor, but Geovany Soto grounded into a double play in between the hits, keeping a potential rally from materializing.

The Rays finally got on the board in the sixth, and did so in an entertaining way. Desmond Jennings led off the inning with a triple, which is always a good start, and came home on Ben Zobrist's sacrifice fly. Joyce followed with a triple of his own, and Odor threw wildly in trying to nail him at third, allowing Joyce to trot home with the inning's second run. Texas threatened in the bottom of the inning courtesy of a Mike Carp walk and a Beltre single-and-error that put runners at second and third, but Hellickson retired the next two hitters to leave the tying runs in scoring position.

Tepesch set Tampa down in order in the seventh, and the Rangers tied it in the bottom of the inning against Joel Peralta. Martin started the rally with a single, and Soto doubled him to third. Odor followed with a sacrifice fly, and Shin-Soo Choo doubled Soto home to tie the game. Andrus then singled, but Choo was thrown out trying to tally the go-ahead run, and Jeff Beliveau retired the inning's final hitter to keep the tie intact.

Neal Cotts and Roman Mendez combined on a scoreless top of the eighth. Beliveau walked Beltre to start the bottom of the inning, but he and Brad Boxberger then retired three consecutive Rangers. Neftali Feliz and Boxberger were both spotless in the ninth, sending the game to extras. The Rays threatened in the tenth, as Jose Molina singled and Kevin Kiermaier bunted into Odor's second error of the day, but Feliz struck out Jennings and coaxed a double play from Zobrist to end the rally. Adam Rosales walked in the bottom of the inning, and was promptly doubled off on a Beltre flyout.

Shawn Tolleson retired the Rays in order in the eleventh, while Jake McGee allowed a single and steal to Martin before leaving him at second. Tolleson and Grant Balfour worked 1-2-3 innings in the twelfth, and Scott Baker matched them in the top of the thirteenth. Dan Robertson tripled in the bottom of the thirteenth, but Balfour left him on. In the fourteenth, Baker allowed an Evan Longoria double, but stranded the runner at second. Cesar Ramos relieved in the bottom of the inning and saw Soto reach on a one-out Longoria error. Odor and Choo then singled to load the bases, and the Rays turned to a five-man infield, with Yunel Escobar taking over in "left field;" Andrus flied out, Escobar remained at short while Zobrist moved to left (the actual left field this time), and Rosales then drew a four-pitch walk to force in the winning run.

The Rangers went 3 for 14 with runners in scoring position in this one - and actually out-performed the Rays in that respect, as Tampa was 0 for 6. So it makes sense that the final run of the day scored on a walk, rather than a hit.

The dire performance with runners in scoring position, of course, meant that both pitching staffs had to fight to keep their teams in the game, and both performed admirably. The Ranger relievers were particularly notable, as Neftali Feliz, Shawn Tolleson, and Scott Baker combined on 6 innings, 2 hits, 5 K's, and no walks.

In fact, that's probably the most noteworthy aspect of this game: The Rangers issued not a single base on balls in 14 innings. That's a pretty good start toward coming out on top in a baseball game.

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