ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — If Saturday’s game was one more lost by the Tampa Bay Rays than won by the Texas Rangers, Texas manager Jeff Banister will still take that as the game balancing itself out as the teams conclude their three-game series on Sunday.
Texas has a chance for the sweep after its 4-3 win pivoted on a single play in the sixth inning.
During the decisive play, Rays center fielder Mallex Smith had a line drive by Adrian Beltre go off his glove with two outs in the sixth, allowing two runs to score and putting the winning run in scoring position. Breaks, Banister said, are something the Rangers will be glad to take as they claw their way back toward a .500 record.
Article continues below ...
“That’s one of those situations that went our way this time,” Banister said. “We haven’t had many of those, but we were able to take advantage of it. Baseball has a funny way of giving back sometimes what you lose.”
Banister pointed out that if Smith makes that error with no runners on base, it’s nearly harmless, so he gave credit to Shin-Soo Choo and Elvis Andrus getting singles and being in position to take advantage of such a costly mistake.
And because of those plays, the Rangers can get their third straight win after entering the series with a five-game losing streak.
“I think that we are a contender,” said Andrus, who had three of the Rangers’ five hits in Saturday’s win. “We aren’t in good shape, but we are still the reigning West champions. We have to keep going and keep playing hard.”
The same is true for the Rays, who have dropped two straight after leading in the sixth inning or later, losing much of the momentum they got in winning four of six games on the road after the All-Star break. This is very much still a team in the thick of the American League wild-card chase, but the last two losses have been especially tough.
“It’s pretty terrible,” Smith said of his error factoring so heavily in a close loss. “Just a bad play. That’s about it. I knew that play needed to be made. Point-blank period.”
The Rays added another piece to their bullpen after Saturday’s loss in Dodgers reliever Sergio Romo, who was acquired for cash considerations.
They will also hope to get Sunday starter Jake Odorizzi (6-4, 4.37 ERA) back on track. He was superb in his first start after the All-Star break, going seven innings and allowing one hit in a win against Oakland.
He has also allowed home runs in 14 straight appearances, the longest streak in team history, so there’s a chance to put that to rest as well.
Texas answers with right-hander Tyson Ross (2-2, 7.22), who didn’t make it through the fourth inning on Tuesday, giving up seven hits and nine runs in a loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
Ross has struggled against the Rays, with a career 0-2 record and 9.00 ERA in four appearances against Tampa Bay, all at Tropicana Field.