ALDS Game Two, Texas 8, Tampa Bay 6
1. Lots of postgame praise from Joe Maddon for Mike Napoli and the adjustments he’s made as a hitter and as a catcher, and it should carry some added weight: Maddon is not only a former minor league catcher but also served on the Angels’ coaching staff for the first six years of Napoli’s pro career. Napoli spent each of those seasons on the Angels’ farm but Maddon was surely aware of how he was viewed by the organization, particularly given his own catching background.
It almost seems cliché now, but just as it’s confounding that Oakland could never figure out what it had in Ron Washington, I don’t know how it was that the Angels could have been that wrong about Napoli.
Know your own.
2. Derek Holland (again a recipient of heavy run support, though not as early in the game as usual) battled. We’ve gotten used to Holland being dominant or awful, but last night he was somewhere in between. He had trouble putting hitters away (25 foul balls, only six swinging strikes), leading to long innings and a bloated pitch count, but to his credit he limited the damage, which would have been minimal had he been able to make a routine throw on Casey Kotchman’s high chopper in front of the plate.
It wasn’t close to the Holland we expected to see, but part of his growth in 2011 has been his ability to avoid the big inning, and to not unravel when things start going bad – something James Shields couldn’t do last night.
3. Wash noted that Texas got things turned around offensively by no longer chasing Shields’s nasty change (which Wash pointed out Shields historically never throws for a strike against the Rangers) the second time through the order and making him bring the ball up in the zone.
4. The overshift that the Rays are employing against Josh Hamilton and Mitch Moreland is sorta staggering. Big potential to backfire, but Maddon seems wholly unafraid of being wrong. In any event, both Hamilton and Moreland have found ways to beat the shift without adjusting their approach.
5. I sorta feel bad for Evan Longoria that he signed that landmark long-term contract a week into his big league career. He’s guaranteed $17.5 million over six years and will surely earn $44.5 million over nine years (when the Rays exercise his three option years), but he’d probably have landed double that if he’d gone year-to-year before he can be a free agent.
What a baseball player.
6. Hat tip to reader Eric Smith for the following: Texas has been shut out nine times in 2011, including Game One of this series. In the nine games following those shutouts? The Rangers are 9-0, and have averaged 10.2 runs. That’s a pretty great demonstration of resilience.
But Nelson: We need you back.
7. Monday’s Game Three starter Colby Lewis has pitched twice against the Rays since returning from Japan. On October 9, in last year’s ALDS Game Three (his first big league playoff appearance), Lewis shut Tampa Bay out on two singles and five walks in five innings at home, fanning five. And on June 1 this year, he blanked the Rays on three singles and a double, walking two and setting eight down on strikes.
Lewis will face David Price, who is 0-3, 5.67 in six regular season starts against Texas, and 0-2, 4.97 in his two ALDS starts against the Rangers last year.
As for who might enter to protect a lead for Texas on Monday and on Tuesday and on any other day the Rangers earn the right to play this month, while last night’s 11-pitch effort shouldn’t operate to erase the very good month Koji Uehara had leading up to it, it wouldn’t surprise me if he and Alexi Ogando were to exchange roles, making Ogando-Mike Adams-Neftali Feliz the post-season version of Cerberus.