Thursday, December 14, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Opinion: Rangers must show resiliency in Game 2

ARLINGTON, Texas — The first playoff game was decided in a hurry, long before the shadows crawled across the ballpark, as the left-handed ace got roughed up for six earned runs while the Rangers bats fell silent.

And the Rangers would go all the way to Game 7 of the World Series in 2011 after that 9-0 loss to the Rays in Game 1 of the ALDS. If you're a big believer in history repeating itself, then what transpired Thursday at Globe Life Park wasn't so bad. In fact, it was eerily familiar.

On the other hand ...

Cole Hamels was supposed to be better than this, way better than what we saw in a 10-1 loss to Toronto. In his last five playoff starts — three with Philadelphia going back to 2010 plus two against these same Blue Jays in 2015 as a Ranger — he had five quality starts and most of them were beyond quality. They were brilliant. That's what this team was counting on his delivering in Game 1. That's why manager Jeff Banister had Yu Darvish and Hamels exchange places in the rotation four weeks ago.

Instead, the Rangers got more of what they saw from him in a puzzling September in which Hamels earned run average fell off the wagon. A man who was in contention for the Cy Young Award, Hamels' 5.86 ERA in five September starts was a sign of trouble that continued right into the playoffs Thursday afternoon.

He threw 42 pitches in a five-run third inning, surrendering cheap hits before Troy Tulowitzki's three-run double put the game and command of this series in Toronto's grasp.

"Ten runs isn't pretty," Hamels said. "Thank God this isn't a wild-card game."

How does someone so gifted in postseasons past come up this short on the biggest stage?

"We're all human," he said. "It's the game of baseball. When the ball leaves my hand and the hitter decides what to do, it's out of my jurisdiction."

Thursday's game wasn't do-or-die, but I don't think it can be labeled an ordinary defeat, either. First of all, a Game 1 loss is obviously a much more serious thing in a best-of-five series than in the best-of-sevens that follow. Beyond that, as good as this Rangers team is, it relies heavily on what it considers its two aces.

The Rangers could march home with their first World Series trophy by winning all of Darvish's and Hamels' playoff starts. We know this series shifts into the Blue Jays' favor when the series moves north Sunday. American League ERA leader Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman, who gave a strong performance in Tuesday's wild-card triumph over Baltimore, get the edge — at least on paper — over Colby Lewis and Martin Perez.

Now, by throwing just 82 pitches in fewer than four innings Thursday, Hamels could return for Game 4. The prospect of being able to recall an ace on short rest is diminished for the obvious reason. Toronto won't exactly lack confidence after producing six hits in 31/3 innings against Hamels in Game 1. And Thursday's game marked the fifth time in seven starts he has allowed at least six runs.

Banister said the struggles Hamels endured in the season's final month were not apparent in this abbreviated playoff start.

"To say that they're comparable, I'm not sure I'm going to go that far," Banister said. "The challenge for me is the first two innings he was in control. And then it did seem to get away from him. But he was still one pitch away from being out of that inning."

Tortured Rangers fans know all about "one pitch away" moments and their minuscule value. Their team is in deep trouble against a lineup that may be emerging from its own September slumber.

Josh Donaldson went 4 for 4 and, yes, Jose Bautista was hardly rattled by the boos that washed down from the crowd of 47,434. He produced his second playoff home run, having opened Tuesday's wild-card scoring with one, and drove in four runs.

Bautista's three-run homer late in the game was the only knockout punch this crowd got to witness.

The other one was drawn out over four innings as Hamels unraveled and the Blue Jays took charge of a series that will teach us much about the resiliency of these Rangers.

Comments
Tampa Bay Rays making progress in trade talks

Tampa Bay Rays making progress in trade talks

Without getting into specifics – especially the who and the where – Rays officials are for the first time talking optimistically about making a trade before the winter meetings end Thursday.Speaking at around 5:15, senior VP Chaim Bloom s...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Winter meetings journal: Rays trade for money to sign top international free agent

LAKE BUENA VISTA — While most of the business conducted at the meetings impacts the big-league team one way or another, the Rays are working to finalize a move they hope pays off big sometime in the 2020s.In trading Wednesday to acquire $1 million in...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 3 – updated with news

Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 3 – updated with news

UPDATE, 5:55: Trade talks apparently picked up this afternoon, perhaps related to previous activity by other teams, and for first time Rays officials sound like something could happen tonight."At this point today, some of those conversations are movi...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Market starting to set itself as Rays’ trade talks intensify

Market starting to set itself as Rays’ trade talks intensify

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Alex Colome claimed he was just showing good social media manners Tuesday night in following four Cardinals-related Instagram accounts since they were saying nice things about him.In doing so, whether for that reason or another mor...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Alex Corddry won’t be back on Tampa Bay Rays telecasts

Alex Corddry won’t be back on Tampa Bay Rays telecasts

Alex Corddry won't be back on Fox Sports Sun's Tampa Bay Rays telecasts.Corddry completed a one-year contract with Fox, serving as the pre-, post- and in-game reporter.  She also covers college football for ESPN and does freelance work in the Wa...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Is Alex Colome telling us something about Rays’ plans with his Instagram account?

Is Alex Colome telling us something about Rays’ plans with his Instagram account?

UPDATE, 9:22: So, Colome says he was just using good social media manners, tweeting (at 4:15) this morning:"I keep getting nice messages and tags from those accounts, so I gave them a follow"And, keeping his emoji game strong, adding one with arms up...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Rick and Tom podcast: Should the Rays go full fire-sale mode?

Rick and Tom podcast: Should the Rays go full fire-sale mode?

As baseball’s hot stove starts heating up, should the Rays go full fire sale to build for the future?In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones discuss whether the Rays should trade guys like Evan Longoria, Chris Archer, Alex Colome and more,...
Published: 12/13/17
Canseco’s tweets about sexual misconduct could jeopardize job on A’s telecasts

Canseco’s tweets about sexual misconduct could jeopardize job on A’s telecasts

LAKE BUENA VISTA — A series of tweets by former Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Oakland Athletics slugger Jose Canseco about sexual misconduct and politicians could put in jeopardy his job as a studio analyst on A’s telecasts. Canseco posted several times ...
Published: 12/13/17
Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 2 – with some news

Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 2 – with some news

UPDATE, 8:45: Tommy Hunter parlayed his solid 2017 season with the Rays into a two-year deal with the Phillies.UPDATE, 7:13: Unexpected sighting in the meetings lobby: Luke Scott, who looked in great shape at 39 and is at least talking about playing ...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17

Winter meetings journal: Rays add more infield depth, claim it isn’t prelude to a trade

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Rays on Tuesday adding their third infielder in the past two weeks would sure look like a precursor to trading front-liners such as 3B Evan Longoria or 2B Brad Miller.But GM Erik Neander insisted that was not the case and that ...
Published: 12/12/17