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Tampa Bay Rays news and notes: Texas Rangers give 6-year-old special honor; David Price's pooch missing

High praise

. MLB Network analyst Larry Bowa, a former longtime big-league manager, said he had to see Rays rookie left-hander Matt Moore, left, pitch only once to tell that he is "something special."

"This is an arm that you don't see every day, one of those that you go, 'Wow,' " Bowa said. "It looks like he has unbelievable late life on his pitches. You look at the radar gun, but sometimes 97-96 is straight down the middle. It looks like it's got late life, and with the command of secondary pitches, it's double trouble."

American League Division Series | Game 2, 7:07 tonight, Arlington, Texas TV/radio: TNT; 620-AM, 1040-AM

Ever since the Rays had a stadium giveaway Aug. 21 of a figurine of David Price and his French bulldog, Astro, the Rays pitcher has made it a custom of putting one of the figurines atop their dugout during games for good luck. Price said it became a hit even in visiting parks, with a fan in Boston asking if he could get one sent to him. • But on Friday in Arlington, Texas, an apparently frustrated — and bored — Rangers fan stole Astro from the top of the dugout. The unidentified fan was caught and escorted out, but Astro wasn't returned. Luckily, pitcher Matt Moore had an extra one, so the Rays weren't empty-handed. Price was disappointed in the theft but said he had no hard feelings toward the fan. • "I'm sure it was out of good fun," Price said. "But it's like, it's bad karma."

There were likely a lot of heavy hearts at Rangers Ballpark when a special kid threw out the ceremonial first pitch Friday: Cooper Stone, the 6-year-old son of local firefighter Shannon Stone, who died from injuries sustained in a fall at the ballpark July 7. Cooper threw a strike to his favorite player, outfielder Josh Hamilton. It was Cooper's first trip back to the stadium since his father died. • Shannon Stone, with Cooper sitting next to him, was reaching over the leftfield rail to catch a foul ball tossed to him by Hamilton, then fell about 20 feet and died later that evening. Cooper's mom, Jenny, joined him on the mound, along with team president and co-owner Nolan Ryan, who has kept in contact with family members and invited them to come back when they were ready. • "They have turned a difficult return to the ballpark into a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Cooper," Jenny said in a statement. "Nothing could be more exciting for a boy than throwing out the first pitch to his favorite player." • Cooper received a standing ovation, with the Rays standing at the top step of their dugout applauding. • "He represents what we believe we're about," Ryan said.

. The best play by someone in Rangers gear might have come from a fan. In the third inning, a fan jumped on the grassy knoll behind the centerfield wall, caught Kelly Shoppach's homer in stride and made a great throw onto the field, with the ball nearly beating Shoppach to second on his home run trot. Was that Henry Rowengartner from the movie Rookie of the Year?

Shoppach power

. Kelly Shoppach, who hit two home runs off the Rangers' C.J. Wilson, was 1-for-12 vs. the Rangers in the regular season. The hit was a homer vs. Wilson on Sept. 1. Shoppach's second homer was 432 feet, the longest given up by Wilson this season, ESPN said.

. Rays catcher Kelly Shoppach said designated hitter Johnny Damon's two-run homer in the second inning took off pressure, but manager Joe Maddon said he "loved even more (Damon) beating out two ground balls." That included Damon, 37, hustling for an infield single with two outs in the ninth to knock in a run. "In today's game, it's not often I see a 37-year-old Hall of Famer running down the line like that," Maddon said. "Those two plays, which most guys would put in their back pocket, they think they're going to be out, but he did not. That's what we have to be about as the Rays."

Quick hits

. Rangers starter C.J. Wilson, who gave up Johnny Damon's two-run homer in the second, allowed two home runs to left-handed batters all season; the last one was to the Rays' Matt Joyce on May 31, ESPN's Stats and Info people said. He didn't allow one the last 125 times he faced lefties in the regular season.

. The Rays had more runs off Wilson in three innings (six) than they did in their first three regular-season games vs. him. And Wilson allowed eight runs, most by a Ranger in postseason history.

Shields the silencer

. Rays pitcher James Shields, left, faces the Rangers today in Game 2 for the third time in a month. And that's likely bad news for Texas. Shields dominated them in back-to-back starts, throwing eight shutout innings Aug. 31 and tossing a complete game Sept. 5, allowing one run. What's the secret? "As far as my opinion goes, they got one of the better hitting teams in the big leagues, but you have to be aggressive," Shields said. "You have to attack those hitters. You can't make too many mistakes. They will capitalize on the mistakes that you make in the game, so you have to minimize your mistakes as much as you can. … You really have to focus and bear down."

Rally time

. St. Petersburg will host a rally Monday before Game 3. The rally is 2 to 5 p.m. at Tropicana Field neighboring Ferg's Sports Bar and Grill, 1320 Central Ave.

A DJ will play music on the outdoor stage behind Ferg's, and there will be food vendors, official Rays merchandise, giveaways and comments from Mayor Bill Foster and other city officials.

The game is at 5 p.m. The Rays said Friday it was approaching a sellout and that all tickets were expected to be gone by this morning. There was a "slightly larger" ticket availability for Tuesday's Game 4.

Tickets are available only through until 9 a.m. today, when they go on sale at all outlets.

Wading in

. Rays manager Joe Maddon said he has always been intrigued by the thought of putting right-hander Wade Davis in the bullpen. And Maddon got to see what it'd look like Friday, when the starter made his first relief appearance as a pro.

Davis entered in the ninth inning and retired the heart of the Rangers order — Josh Hamilton (flyout), Michael Young (flyout) and Adrian Beltre (popout) — in 14 pitches, while clocking 96 mph.

Maddon believed that, with shorter outings, Davis could have a higher velocity more consistently while tackling a Rangers lineup dominated with right-handers.

Davis, who welcomed the new role, said it went well and he felt like he could pitch again tonight in Game 2.

"I think definitely, everything was a little bit quicker than planning it out through the whole game," Davis said. "Just go out and give them what you've got right there."

Tampa Bay Rays news and notes: Texas Rangers give 6-year-old special honor; David Price's pooch missing 09/30/11 [Last modified: Saturday, October 1, 2011 12:51am]
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