GAME 3 - Rays 6, Rangers 3: My Top 10 Observations
9. In the owner's box: Nolan Ryan, Dubya Bush and CBS' signature sports voice Jim Nantz. He's in town to call Sunday's Cowboys-Titans down the street, but wonder if the trio talked football, baseball or mistresses?
8. Did Rangers' manager Ron Washington go to closer Neftali Feliz too soon? For sure it's one of his characteristic "gut" moves that we can second-guess him on. Darren O'Day struck out the only batter he faced, but Wash went to Feliz with two outs in the 8th of a tie game. Rays' rookie catcher Jason Jaso might have swung the series' momentum with a ringing single up the middle that gave Tampa a 3-2 lead.
7. Impressive, all-time record crowd of 51,746. Fans chanted "Let's Go Rangers!!" before the game -- unprompted, I might add -- and serenaded Josh Hamilton with "M-V-P!!" during each at-bat. We've seen sellouts and MVPs here before, but still not a home playoff win. (Oh, and, nothing to get alarmed about -- yet -- but Josh is 2 for 12 in the series with no extra-base hits.)
6. Before the game Rangers' manager Ron Washington attributed Colby Lewis' five errors this season on a degenerative hip condition that severely limits his mobility. Wait, what? First I've heard of that.
5. Nothing like October baseball. Long shadows. Chilly late-inning temperatures. Fans booing Tampa's massage therapist during pre-game introductions, red-white-and-blue bunting and, of course, Charley Pride signing the National Anthem.
4. Like you, I thought the Rangers were on their way after Ian Kinsler's homer in the seventh. Darren Oliver got Texas within four outs of the finish line, but give the Rays credit. Carl Crawford made two spectacular catches, shorstop Jason Bartlett saved a run with a diving snare and two lefties -- Dan Johnson and Carlos Pena -- got crucial hits off Oliver, who is notoriously nasty on left-handed hitters.
3. Lots of antlers -- corny has become cool -- some brooms, thousands of white rally towels and plenty of red in the crowd. Not a lot of claws with only five Rangers' hits but I did hear a couple of vuvuzelas. Fitting, since Texas runs in Game 3 were about as scarce as soccer goals.
2. The Rays scored one run in the series' first 23 innings, but against Texas' bullpen today they scored six over the final four. And fitting that two former Rangers contributed to Tampa's win -- Joaquin Benoit with 1.2 innings of no-hit relief and Pena with the game-tying single with two outs in the eighth and the send-'em-homer two-run jack in the 9th.
1. No reason to panic, Rangers fans. Remember, Tampa won 96 games including a baseball-best 47 of them on the road. I still think the series is over, but I didn't expect it to be an easy close-out. Now, if I'm Texas I throw Cliff Lee in Sunday's Game 4 at 12:07 and then have C.J. Wilson available for a possible Game 5 Tuesday in Florida. Sorry, Tommy Hunter, but if I'm going to cough up a 2-0 lead, I'm going to do it with my two best pitchers each getting a start. You?