Rays rock Rangers 8-6, sweep series

Tampa Bay took on the American League West-leading Rangers to see if the third time really is the charm (it is). The Rays got to the Rangers pitchers early and often, scoring eight runs on 10 hits spread out through six of eight innings of offense. Carl Crawford singled with two outs in the bottom of the first inning and was driven in by an Evan Longoria double, his first of three consecutive extra base hits. Longoria launched a solo home run to lead off the fourth inning, his second of 4 RBIs on the day

Shields kept the Rangers scoreless through four innings but those Texas boys got on the board in the fifth with a solo home run by catcher Taylor Teagarden. The Rays responded with a three-spot in the home half of the frame. Upton added a lead-off homer of his own to make it 3-1. Jason Bartlett walked and moved to second base on a passed ball. A walk by Carl Crawford put two men aboard; Crawford scored easily on Longoria’s second double of the day. After Carlos Pena walked, Texas decided to give its opening pitcher the rest of the day off and Alexi Ogando came on to strike out Shoppach and walk Ben Zobrist intentionally, loading the bases. Matt Joyce came on to pinch hit and picked up an RBI when he was walked, scoring Crawford.

Andres Blanco led off the sixth with a base hit and scored on three free bases; he moved to third on a throwing error on a pickoff attempt by Shields and crossed the plate on a wild pitch that catcher Kelly Shoppach failed to locate until it was too late. Tampa Bay matched them with Upton leading off with abase hit. He stole second and moved to third base on a passed ball. After a Jason Bartlett strikeout, Carl Crawford drove a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Upton. The Rays got another in the seventh frame after Shoppach doubled with one out and scored on a Joyce base hit to right field.

Texas made it interesting in the eighth and ninth innings, scoring twice in each frame. Reliever Chad Qualls induced the same stomach squirming he showed two nights prior, allowing a single by Joaquin Arias and a double to Julio Borbon to lead off; Arias scored as Andres Blanco grounded out to second. Randy Choate came on to replace Qualls. Borbon scored as Josh Hamilton grounded out. The Rays picked up their final run of the day after Bartlett led off with a single in the bottom of the eight and moved to second base on a throwing error. He then stole third and I’m not sure what happened but he lay prone on the dirt, prompting a visit from medical staff and manager Joe Maddon; after what looked like examinations for concussion-like symptoms, JB stayed in the game and scored on a Longoria sacrifice fly to right field.

Lance Cormier took the mound in the top of the ninth and the Trop exhaled a collective sigh. Nothing against Lance but he doesn’t always inspire confidence in fans and today showed why. He walked lead-off man David Murphy who was next thrown out on an attempted double play. Instead, Jorge Cantu moved into second base on an error charged to Reid Brignac at second. A Mitch Moreland home run closed the scoring for the day and prompted the arrival of closer Rafael Soriano, who struck out Teagarden and got Arias to fly out to Joyce in right, picking up his 35th save in the process.

How can you not be excited as a Rays fan. The boys just swept the division-leading Rangers and rendered Josh Hamilton, the best hitter in the AL, a non-factor in a three game series, unless you count the run scored after he got plunked by Choate in Tuesday night’s game. Longoria had an awesome outing, going 3-for-4 with four RBIs. Upton picked up a couple of hits and scored a couple of runs today as well.

I think this challenging series win is exactly what the Rays needed before embarking on their Left Coast road trip to face the Oakland A’s and Halos in L.A. it sure wasn’t a cake walk (ignoring the 10-1 ass-whuppin’ Tuesday night) and the Rays had to battle back for a come-from-behind-er Monday and stave off the talented Rangers line up Wednesday afternoon. A big thanks to Tampa Bay for getting the sweep and not making me look like an ass with my BYOB (Bring Your Own Broom) comment after last night’s game. I got to make of an ass of myself by picking on the elderly instead.

Final thought: Where can I get a BRayser? Those things are awesome.

Hey Qualls, you missed a spot. Oh wait, Choate’s got it. Cormier, you’re looking sloppy. OK, Soriano is cleaning it all up. Phew!

I love broom jokes. I love series sweeps even more, and that’s what the Tampa Bay Rays gave us Wednesday afternoon at Tropicana Field, taking the third and final outing of the three-game set against the visiting Texas Rangers. It was, of course, the Senior Prom for Senior Citizens promotion and lo and behold, the dead walk. No, faithful viewers, that was not the sound of cowbells, it was the clanging of oxygen tanks being dragged laboriously up the stairs. If you thought you heard vuvuzelas, it was most likely the sound of thousands of wheezing old folk. But I digress.

James Shields got the start on the hill for Tampa Bay and had a great game, keeping his average pitches per inning to Cliff Lee-like lows and picking up his 11th win of the season. Jimmy threw for 7 innings, allowing two runs on four hits while walking two batters and striking out six. This was actually the first time in the series the Rays failed to reach 10 strikeouts in a game. It says a lot when that's your major complaint for the day.

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