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TB@TEX Gm2: Rangers score five runs in the fourth

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers faced an almost must-win situation against the toughest pitcher they faced this year, they were down three runs after three innings and they were still able to pull this one out.

Maybe three weeks from now they'll look back and see just how huge their five-run fourth inning really was, but it looked pretty big on Saturday night -- possibly the single biggest inning ever for them in the postseason. The Rangers are still alive, and the American League Division Series is now tied after they held on to a tension-racked 8-6 victory before another sellout crowd at the Ballpark in Arlington.

"That was a lot of fun," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "Every postseason win is huge but ... we can't say that this was a must-win, but it was a pretty huge win."

The Rangers' offense finally came around against Rays All-Star right-hander James Shields, but this victory wasn't secure until closer Neftali Feliz, after a one-out walk to B.J. Upton in the ninth, retired Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist on fly balls to the outfield to end the game.

"This was a win we needed, and we got it," Feliz said. "It was a really exciting night for us."

The series resumes on Monday at 4 p.m. CT with Game 3 at Tropicana Field with Colby Lewis pitching for the Rangers against David Price for the Rays. The Rangers won three games at Tropicana Field during last year's ALDS. But finally getting to Shields on Saturday night means the Rangers at least need to win only one of two in Florida to get the series back to Arlington for Game 5.

"It was only a matter of time before our offense broke through," outfielder David Murphy said. "Shields is a great pitcher and he's had a great year, so it was good to finally break through against him. Obviously we didn't want to go back to Tampa Bay 0-2 and it was tough being down, 3-0, early. But this team has always shown it is resilient, so I knew were going to break through."

Derek Holland earned the victory even though he was down three runs going into the bottom of the fourth. He walked in a run during a 29-pitch first inning and then his two-out throwing error in the fourth set up a two-run home run by Matt Joyce.

The best thing Holland did was respond to the five-run fourth by putting up a zero in the fifth inning before turning it over to the bullpen. Upton getting thrown out trying to steal third was one of the big plays of the night.

"Very antsy night, in the first inning everybody could see that," Holland said. "I was making sure I did everything I could not to put too much pressure on myself and give my team a chance to win. I knew I had to make pitches and I did that, although the bad throw didn't help."

The Rangers were able to overcome that with the five-run fourth. To that point, Shields had allowed just one run in 20 innings against the Rangers this season and he had also pitched three scoreless on just 39 pitches. The inning that might have saved the Rangers' season began with Elvis Andrus getting hit by a 1-1 curveball.

"It's the first time I stayed in to get hit by a pitch," Andrus said. "Usually I get out of there if something is close to me, but that's how the playoffs make you. You have to find a way to get on first base."

Josh Hamilton, facing a 2-2 count and a three-infielder alignment on the right side, then ripped a single through the shift. Michael Young also lined a single, this one to left, to load the bases. At that point, Rays manager Joe Maddon went to the mound.

"We were just talking about staying out of the big inning," Maddon said. "You just have to go out and remind them to stay out of the big inning."

Shields couldn't do that. Instead, he gave the Rangers their first run by hitting Adrian Beltre with a first-pitch fastball, forcing home Andrus. Shields hit just five batters during the regular season. That brought up Mike Napoli, and Shields got into more trouble by falling behind 3-0 in the count. He came back with two strikes. Then Napoli -- with the crowd screaming, "Napoli! Napoli!" -- fouled off three pitches before lining a two-run single to left to tie the score.

"The crowd was awesome tonight," Kinsler said. "When they were chanting Napoli's name, it gave me chills up my spine."

Shields then struck out Nelson Cruz on three pitches and got ahead 0-2 on Murphy. But Murphy worked the count full and a wild pitch on 2-2 advanced the runners. Shields did get Murphy to chase a 3-2 curve in the dirt for strike three, but the ball bounced away from catcher Kelly Shoppach far enough for both Beltre to score and Murphy to reach first safely.

"We caught a couple of breaks that inning and we had some good at-bats that inning," Young said. "We just tried to stay aggressive in the strike zone. He has a good changeup and we wanted to make sure we swung at balls in the zone and cut it loose."

"They benefited from a couple hit batters, a couple of balls in the dirt that got away," Maddon said. "It was kind of a fortuitous inning for them. But that happens. They are an aggressive team on the basepaths, they do those kind of things."

Napoli went to third on the play and scored on Mitch Moreland's slow grounder to shortstop.

"The first three innings Shields was breezing through us pretty good," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "But we made the adjustments we had to make on him, make him get the ball up in the zone, quit chasing the changeup, and some good things happened to us. We strung some hits together, and the next thing you know we were able to run the bases and do some things."

The Rangers were up, 5-3, and a two-run double by Kinsler gave them a four-run lead going into the seventh. But, after Alexi Ogando pitched a scoreless sixth, Koji Uehara came into the game and let the Rays get back into it. He walked Desmond Jennings, Upton singled to left and Longoria hit a three-run home run to make it 7-6.

Darren Oliver then replaced Uehara and retired three straight hitters. Mike Adams did so in the eighth and Moreland gave the Rangers a little breathing room with a home run in the bottom of the eighth. Feliz finished the job in the ninth as Rangers relievers retired nine of 10 hitters after the Longoria home run.

"That's what those guys are supposed to do, lock the game down, and that's what they did," Kinsler said. "They did a great job." Comments