The Rays have sprung to life, rallying late to claim Game 3 of the American League Division Series and avoid elimination, and now the big question is whether it's Texas -- needing to claim Game 4 to avoid a second trip to Florida -- or Tampa Bay feeling the heat in anticipation of Sunday's High Noon CT shootout.
Rangers starter Tommy Hunter's response to the question was probably exactly what his manager, Ron Washington, wanted to hear.
"I don't know," said Hunter, who will oppose Wade Davis at Rangers Ballpark. "I really don't want to put pressure on anybody or have pressure on us or anything like that, because it's a baseball game.
"We're going to go out and play like the little kids that we are, and just let things fall into place as they should."
The Rangers were five outs away from advancing to the AL Championship Series when the Rays came surging to life in Game 3 with two runs in the eighth inning and three in the ninth for a 6-3 decision.
If Tampa Bay manages to extend the series to a Game 5 on Tuesday in Florida, aces Cliff Lee of the Rangers and David Price of the Rays will have another go at it. Lee took Game 1 from Price with a 5-1 victory.
"We definitely didn't want that to be our last game," said Rays left fielder Carl Crawford, who homered and singled in Game 3 to help revive the offense along with Carlos Pena, Dan Johnson and John Jaso. "We started hitting, and it felt better. And you can tell the guys started putting together better at-bats, and it happened. Hopefully, we can come out and play like that [on Sunday]."
The Rays had more hits (11) than the eight they'd collected in the first two games, when they produced only one run. A return to life by his offense has manager Joe Maddon feeling a lot better about things.
"We were facing very good pitching," Maddon said, referring to Lee and C.J. Wilson in the first two games, "and they executed well against us. Finally we were able to push that rock in the other direction [in Game 3]. And I'd like to believe we're going to come out with that same kind of offensive attitude [on Sunday]."
Washington, never one to overreact, remains in the driver's seat even if momentum moved over to the other side in Game 3.
"It is very comforting," Washington said of the 2-1 advantage, "but the only thing we're thinking about now is getting prepared with Tommy Hunter.
"We know if we do have to go back to Tampa, we have Cliff Lee. [On Sunday] we will come out and do what we did today, play as hard as we possibly can. Hopefully, when it is over we have more runs than they have."
Sun, 10/10 1:00 PM ET
Rays aren't Long shot after Game 4 victory
Evan Longoria sparked a fourth-inning rally with a leadoff double and added a monstrous two-run homer one inning later as the Rays held off the Rangers to send the ALDS back to Tampa Bay for a decisive Game 5.
|Pena, C, 1B||4||2||2||1||0||1||1||.400|
|Johnson, D, DH||4||0||0||0||0||2||4||.286|
|Upton, B, CF||4||0||2||1||0||1||1||.176|
|Young, M, 3B||4||0||1||0||0||1||2||.188|
|Cruz, N, RF||4||1||1||1||0||3||1||.313|
|Murphy, Dv, LF||4||0||0||0||0||1||3||.143|
|Molina, B, C||3||0||1||0||0||1||2||.400|
2B: Longoria 2 (2, Hunter, T, Holland, D), Pena, C (1, Hunter, T), Upton, B (2, Hunter, T).
3B: Pena, C (1, Hunter, T).
HR: Longoria (1, 5th inning off Holland, D, 1 on, 2 out).
TB: Jaso; Zobrist 2; Longoria 8; Pena, C 5; Joyce; Upton, B 3; Bartlett.
RBI: Pena, C (4), Upton, B (2), Longoria 2 (2).
2-out RBI: Upton, B; Longoria 2.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Upton, B; Brignac; Bartlett; Johnson, D; Zobrist.
GIDP: Crawford; Johnson, D.
Team RISP: 3-for-14.
Team LOB: 6.
SB: Joyce (1, 2nd base off Hunter, T/Molina, B), Upton, B (1, 3rd base off Holland, D/Molina, B).
PB: Jaso (2).
DP: (Longoria-Zobrist-Pena, C).
2B: Andrus (1, Davis, W), Moreland (2, Balfour).
HR: Cruz, N (3, 6th inning off Davis, W, 0 on, 0 out).
TB: Andrus 3; Young, M; Guerrero; Cruz, N 4; Kinsler; Molina, B; Moreland 2.
RBI: Cruz, N (3), Moreland (1).
2-out RBI: Moreland.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Molina, B; Hamilton; Guerrero 2; Andrus.
Team RISP: 1-for-8.
Team LOB: 8.
E: Kinsler (2, fielding), Andrus (2, throw).
PB: Molina, B (1).
DP: 2 (Moreland-Andrus-Moreland, Kinsler-Andrus-Moreland).
|Davis, W(W, 1-0)||5.0||7||2||2||3||7||1||3.60|
|Soriano, R(S, 1)||1.0||0||0||0||0||0||0||4.50|
Pitches-strikes: Davis, W 94-57, Choate 6-4, Balfour 22-15, Benoit 7-6, Soriano, R 15-10, Hunter, T 73-54, Holland, D 52-39, O'Day 10-8.
Groundouts-flyouts: Davis, W 3-2, Choate 1-0, Balfour 2-0, Benoit 0-2, Soriano, R 1-2, Hunter, T 4-0, Holland, D 5-1, O'Day 2-0.
Batters faced: Davis, W 24, Choate 1, Balfour 6, Benoit 3, Soriano, R 3, Hunter, T 18, Holland, D 16, O'Day 4.
Inherited runners-scored: Choate 1-0, Balfour 1-1.
Umpires: HP: Bill Miller. 1B: Jeff Kellogg. 2B: Mike DiMuro. 3B: Tim Welke. LF: Jim Wolf. RF: Jerry Meals.
Weather: 82 degrees, sunny.
Wind: 16 mph, In from RF.
Compiled by MLB Advanced Media