Saxophonist B.K. Jackson, 20, of Tampa, a good-luck charm for the Rays during their 2008 World Series run, was disappointed he couldn't perform the national anthem during last year's playoffs due to his class schedule at Florida A&M. But even with FAMU having homecoming this week, Jackson, right, played before Game 3. "This is my party," he said.
It looks as if Rays leftfielder Desmond Jennings has come out his slump. Jennings entered the postseason in a 0 for 25 slump and had just three hits in his final 40 regular-season at-bats. He went 2-for-7 in the first two games of the division series and then blasted two homers in Monday's Game 3. "I guess I ran into a couple,'' Jennings said. Jennings became the sixth rookie in major-league history to hit two homers in a postseason game and the first since the Braves' Andruw Jones in Game 1 of the 1996 World Series. Jennings led off the bottom of the first with a 10-pitch at-bat against Rangers starter Colby Lewis before grounding out to short. Seeing everything in Lewis' arsenal in that at-bat helped Jennings in his second at-bat, in the fourth, when he hit the first pitch into the leftfield seats, above. He led off the eighth with a shot into the leftfield stands, this time off reliever Mike Adams. "It felt good,'' Jennings said. "It's exciting. Unfortunately, we came up short.''
. Two of the late Lee Roy Selmon's children, Lee Roy and Brandy, threw out a ceremonial first pitch, above. Selmon, a Bucs legend, Pro Football Hall of Famer and former USF athletic director, died Sept. 4 after suffering a stroke. He had visited the Rays last year, spoke to the team and threw out a first pitch. Son Lee Roy enjoyed his turn. "It was fun," he said.
. St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster chatted with Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg on the field before the game, but it was more small talk than stadium-issues talk. Foster, who was at Wednesday's wild playoff-clinching victory over the Yankees, said, "You couldn't have scripted a better ending." Foster — pointing toward Sternberg, team president Matt Silverman and executive VP Andrew Friedman — said, "That's the dream team right here. They do more with less than anybody I've ever known." Foster said nothing has changed on the stadium front. "Both of us are so focused on getting to the World Series," Foster said. "(The stadium issue) is the last thing either one of us is talking about."
. Rangers SS Elvis Andrus, top right, and closer Neftali Feliz, center right, are usually the most talked about when it comes to the haul Texas got in the 2007 Mark Teixeira trade with the Braves. But today's Game 4 starter, LHP Matt Harrison, was also part of that deal and arguably has been just as valuable this season. In his first full year in the rotation, the hard-throwing lefty went 14-9 with a 3.39 ERA. Motivated by not making last year's postseason roster and missing the Rangers' World Series run, Harrison sharpened up mentally by reading books such as The Mental ABC's of Pitching. "And that's what really has turned my career around so far this year," he said.
AL Division Series | Game 4, 2:07 today, St. Petersburg TV/radio: TBS; 620-AM, 1040-AM
. Mike Napoli sat in front of his locker at Tropicana Field on Monday night with two big ice bags wrapped around his thighs. The Rangers catcher looked like someone who had just gone 12 rounds in a heavyweight fight. But after four hours of work in Game 3 of the American League Division Series, it was worth it.
Napoli, acquired last offseason from the Angels, was 2-for-3 with a walk and one huge home run in the Rangers' 4-3 win. He also threw out B.J. Upton trying to steal second in the bottom of the eighth inning to thwart a Rays rally attempt. "He's had so many big hits for us,'' Rangers president and CEO Nolan Ryan said. "You shudder to think about where we would be without him.''
With the Rangers trailing 1-0 in the top of the seventh, Napoli hit a towering two-run home run off starter David Price that gave the Rangers the lead. They tacked on two more runs later in the inning and held on.
"He hits balls so high, you don't think they're going to come down,'' Rangers third baseman Michael Young said.
That Napoli was the hero is no surprise. Including that game, he is 11-for-23 with four home runs and nine RBIs in six games played at Tropicana Field this year. "I like hitting here, I know that,'' he said.
. Rays centerfielder B.J. Upton took the blame for throwing a wrench into a potential rally in the eighth inning. Down 4-2 going to the bottom of the eighth, the Rays cut their deficit to 4-3 on Desmond Jennings' second homer of the game.
Upton followed with a walk with no outs then guessed wrong when trying to steal second on a 1-and-2 count to Evan Longoria. The Rangers pitched out, and catcher Mike Napoli cut down Upton.
"I definitely got to run the bases better there,'' Upton said. "It was a perfect pitchout count. I just got to think a little more.''
Napoli credited bench coach Jackie Moore for the pitchout call. "B.J. is fast, and you knew they were going to try to steal down one," he said. "I just had to get my legs under me and make a good throw. Can't rush things there.''
Upton being thrown out stung a bit more when Rangers reliever Mike Adams walked Longoria and then Matt Joyce. Instead of having the bases loaded with no outs, the Rays had runners on first and second with one out. The Rangers then got out of the inning after Johnny Damon and Ben Zobrist struck out.
"It was a great call on their part,'' Rays manager Joe Maddon said about the pitchout. "They beat us in that moment. I have to give them a lot of credit for that. I will not denigrate B.J. at all for that moment. If he's safe, everybody loves it.''
And it's not going to stop the Rays from running today in Game 4, Maddon said.
"We are not going to get timid now,'' he said. "We are not a timid team or group or organization. We're not. They got us. Hats off to them. We'll see what happens next time."
. Third baseman Evan Longoria said the Rays weren't quite prepared last year for how the Rangers beat them at their own game in the division series, stealing bases, bunting, etc. Texas stole four bases in Game 5 of that series alone. Monday the Rangers were running again, stealing four bases, including a double steal in the seventh inning. This time Craig Gentry was picked off first base in the third, and Elvis Andrus got caught in a rundown to end the seventh.