Funny that the game was delayed by about 90 seconds because Matt Moore was late in walking to the dugout from the bullpen and made CJ Wilson wait. But it wasn’t him would be playing mind games with CJ Wilson: it was his battery-mate Kelly Shoppach.
America got a view of the pitcher with the fewest big league starts before starting a Game 1 in Matt Moore who showed off his fastball at 95-98, changeup at 85-88 and curveball at 80-84. Unfair, right? The Rangers thought so, going 7 IP, allowing 2 H (both to Josh Hamilton), 2 BB, and getting 6 K’s. This would also be only the 3rd time this season they’ve been shutout at home.
CJ Wilson was using his fastball at 90-93, cutter at 87-88, changeup at 83-85, slider at 80-something, curveball at 76-79. Throw in another pitch while you’re at it, you lazy bum! However, all his pitches and all the shadows that were on the field though couldn’t save him from the Tampa offense that kept its offensive onslaught going from that 7-0 deficit they “wildly” overcame.
In the top of the 2nd, Ben Zoborist got hit on his right elbow/funny bone area that helped set up Johnny Damon’s 3-1 fastball blast to RF to get the first runs of the postseason in. It was very reminiscent of the last ALDS when Michael Young had that check swing debate then HR to CF in Tampa. Damon looked like he went, and anyone will tell you the dynamics of a 3-1 count vs. a 2-2 count are so very different. Matt Joyce would add a 2-out RBI single past two diving infielders into RF to pad their early lead to 3.
The top of the 3rd got Rangers fans booing as CJ Wilson threw a fastball in the up and outer edge over the plate in the zone and Kelly Shoppach punished that ball to the grass area for a 3-run shot that made it 6-0 and looked to put the ball out of reach. An Evan Longoria single up the middle and a bunt single on the 3B side by Ben Zoborist perfectly put down set up the 1st and 2nd situation for Damon (who would K), then Shoppach who ate that fastball up.
The Rangers had a hard time threatening the rook, getting Josh Hamilton to 2nd on a leadoff double in the 4th, but he eventually got tagged out on a bad baserunning decision on a ball in play to the SS.
The top of the 5th was going ever so smoothly for CJ Wilson, getting Longo and Zoborist then Damon got on with an E5 by Beltre on a high throw to Michael Young that made him leave the bag. What seemed like 10 minutes later, Shoppach had worked the count full and after pulling one way deep and way foul, he connected on another pitch up and there was no doubt about it.
The game fell into a lull with not much happening until the top of the 9th when Upton walked, Longoria singled, a wild pitch by Matt Harrison advanced both runners and with 2 outs the fans exited the stadium out of frustration so the Rays tacked on another run just to rub it in.
Game 2 will matchup James Shields (16-12, 2.82 ERA, 11 CGs, 249.1 IP) from the Rays and Derek Holland (16-5, 3.95 ERA, 4 CGs, 198.0 IP) of the Rangers as the Rays try to go back home up 2-0. Will the visiting team win every game of this series AGAIN??
I will predict things, and I will be wrong. It’s just fun to guess.
(2) Rangers vs. (4) Rays, 2:07 PM PST, Ballpark at Arlington
The world was expecting Red Sox Nation to show up, but the great Baseball Deities decided to give us one of the best nights of baseball ever that resulted in a little something Long Beach State likes to call “Evan Longoria.” True, there was Dan Johnson who kept them from Game 163, and Joe Maddon is a genius.
Game 1: Christopher John (CJ) Wilson (16-7, 2.94 ERA, 1.187 WHIP, 223.1 IP) vs. Matt Moore (1-0, 2.89 ERA, 14.49 K/9, 9.1 IP, 1 GS)
While the world is pondering why Kyle Lohse is a Game One starter, Joe Maddon tried to one-up Tony La Russa and say, “How about I throw out our Minor League Stud-Muffin out there?” It’s true, GM’s and scouts alike have dreams of Matt Moore and the future looks bright for the kid born in 1989 (really). As with any other postseason series, it’s going to come down to pitching, and both staffs are well equipped to go toe-to-toe (and that Texas bullpen? What the heck is that all about?)
What we have come to love about both of these teams though, are their bats. Who doesn’t love themselves some Longo, Zoborist, Upton (the tradeable one), Hamilton, Cruz, Beltre and hitting catching in Napoli? Oh and Kinsler had a 32 HR season, big whoop. I do that in video games all the time.
I respect Ron Washington and Joe Maddon a lot, but Joe Maddon has some crazy smart tactics he gets from those One-A-Day 50+ multivitamins which may hold the key to jumping over the 2010 AL Champions who do not have Cliff Lee to beat them twice again this year. But then again, Texas does have Tommy Hunter anymore to underhand pitches to batters so the Rays will have to counter that with something.
The Rangers have a scary good offense. Can the Rays young pitching hold them down? I say no. Texas takes care of business in game one, 5-1.
(1) Yankees vs. (3) Tigers, 5:37 PM PST, Yankee Stadium
Game 1: CC Sabathia (19-8, 3.00 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 237.1 IP) vs. Justin Verlander (24-5, 2.40 ERA, 0.920 WHIP, 251.0 IP)
Sure there are hitters involved, but as a Giants fan I know they don’t do anything. The game is in the starting pitching, and boy you bet America is excited for this.
The uneducated baseball fan will look at this matchup and say to themselves “holy crap, 43 combined wins between two aces! i love baseball for now until sunday!” They will feel like it gives them a clue as to the magic that could be awaiting them, what with Verlander’s two no-hitters he has under his belt, one coming this year in Toronto. There will be magic, but not because they have 43 wins between each other.
The scouting reports these guys get are processed and and executed to an “ace” level — these two having 480 K’s between them, the two of them averaging 4 K’s/BB. Sure, the ratio isn’t Sergio Romo-esque, but there’s only one person who pitches like Sergio Romo and that’s Sergio MF Romo. There might not be a repeat of Roy Halladay stature, but anytime these guys get on the mound you know you could be bearing witness to something special.
Weather reports are telling us we don’t even know what time this game will officially get started, but hopefully it’s just a bunch of clouds passing through. Wouldn’t want to watch the “Double-R” series and then have to wait hours to see Game One of this ALDS. That would be cruel.
When you watch these two, hopefully you think about two things: teaching your kid to either throw left-handed, or teaching your kid how to throw triple-digits with great control.
So who will it be for Game One? Both of these teams haven’t been in “playoff mode” for a while, but it doesn’t mean they haven’t worked. I like Verlander and Co. to take Game 1 and Valverde to do a little dance at the end. Tigers get first blood, 6-4.