Tampa Bay Rays
Lewis, Rangers take 2-1 lead over Rays in ALDS
ST. PETERSBURG - Well, the Rays have seen this before. It was called September . One more loss and the season ends, which is how they approached the final week of the regular season, the entire month for that matter. Only this time it really is a one-and-done scenario for the American League wild-card winners. The Rangers made sure of that Monday with a 4-3 victory in Game 3 of the American League division series played in front of a sell-out crowd of 32,828 at Tropicana Field. The Rays must win Game 4 this afternoon to force a deciding Game 5 on Thursday in Texas."You don't want to be in this situation, obviously, but it's not something we're unfamiliar with," outfielder Sam Fuld said. "We've certainly shown the ability to thrive in this type of setting. It's not how we would have like to have drawn it up, but it's not like we're uncomfortable playing in this type of situation." Rays starter David Price remained winless since Aug. 28 and winless for his career against the Rangers. He's also winless in three straight ALDS starts, all against Texas. "I just haven't got it done," Price said. "We need to win these games. This is the postseason, this is October, so winning is the only thing that matters, and we didn't do that (Monday)." For six innings Price kept the Rangers' offense in check, holding the American League's best hitting team during the regular season to only four singles. Desmond Jennings, with the first of two home runs on the night, gave him a 1-0 lead in the fourth. But Price allowed a leadoff single to Adrian Beltre to start the seventh, and Mike Napoli followed with a home run to left-center field to put the Rangers on top. After getting two outs, Price allowed a single to Craig Gentry and gave way to Brandon Gomes. Gomes loaded the bases with a pair of walks and gave way to J.P. Howell, and the left-hander came in to face the left-handed hitting Josh Hamilton. Rays manager Joe Maddon said Howell, who struggled down the stretch of the regular season, made the postseason roster for just such a matchup. "All the homework we do, that's our best one-on-one matchup, we think, out of the bullpen based on the kind of stuff J.P. has and what he's done to left-handed hitters this year," Maddon said. Hamilton slapped a two-run single to right and the Rangers had a 4-1 lead. "He just got the curveball in the wrong spot," Maddon said. But the Rays, as they have all season, battled back. They quickly loaded the bases off Darren Oliver in the seventh on consecutive singles by Johnny Damon, Ben Zobrist and Casey Kotchman. Pinch-hitter Sean Rodriguez drove in a run with a ground out, but Fuld, pinch-hitting for Reid Brignac, bounced out to second. Jennings homered in the eighth to make it a one-run game, and the Rays had runners on second and third with two outs before Rangers closer Neftali Feliz struck out Zobrist to end the threat. Feliz then got Kelly Shoppach to hit into a game-ending double play in the ninth, sending the Rays to the brink of elimination. "Believe me," Maddon said, "this thing is not over yet. You have seen what we have done over the last month." That would be the rally up the wild-card standings from nine back of the Red Sox on Sept. 2 to the heart-stopping rally from a 7-0 deficit to an 8-7, 12-inning win against the Yankees on the final night of the regular season that came moments after the Red Sox lost in Baltimore. The scenario sent the Rays to the playoffs and the Red Sox home. "We're fine," Price said. "No one is panicking." Rookie Jeremy Hellickson makes his ALDS debut today in what certainly is the biggest game of the Rays' season. Yet Maddon called each game over the final few weeks of September the "biggest game of the season," when a loss would have really hurt the Rays' chances of catching the Red Sox for the American League's final playoff spot. If the Rays have anything going for them today, besides Hellickson, it's the confidence gained from their recent experience in playing in a do-or-die situation. "We're good at staying loose in the back-against-the-wall scenario. I think we'll be fine," Fuld said. "None of us wanted to go back to Texas, but if that's what it takes, we'll have to do it. If you drew up how this whole thing would go, I don't think anyone would have predicted it would go easy."