Sac flies get best of Garza, Rays in finale
Righty gives up five runs; offense manages just three hits
ARLINGTON -- What started out as a promising road trip ended with four straight losses, the final three coming in Texas where the Rangers completed a three-game sweep on Sunday night.
The Rangers continued to ride strong pitching while taking advantage of Rays starter Matt Garza's struggles en route to a 5-2 win with 22,324 watching at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
"You win the first two games in Toronto, then to lose the next four is disappointing, there's no question," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It's disappointing and we have to do better than that."
The Rangers have now won five straight games and felt good about sweeping a team they feel is the best.
"We're a confident team," Rangers third baseman Michael Young said. "They're a very good team and whoever wants to go to the World Series from the American League has to go through the Rays. They are a talented club and we know they are going to be in the AL mix the whole way. The one thing we did well in this series is we pitched well."
Scott Feldman started for the Rangers and picked up his second consecutive win after holding the Rays to one earned run in six innings to move to 7-2 on the season.
"[Feldman] kept the ball down," Maddon said. "He's done good work this year against left-handed hitters. A lot of it looked like a backdoor cutter and then he'd get in on their hands, too. And we had a lot of jammed swings tonight."
While Feldman pitched well, he basically just perpetuated the theme of the series, which was quality pitching by the Rangers. Each of the Rangers' weekend starters picked up wins and the bullpen was even better, posting 9 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings against the Rays.
"They did pitch well inside this whole series," Maddon said. "They pitched well, period. Their bullpen, anytime anybody came out of their pen they didn't give up anything. We hit some balls hard tonight, but not a lot. They just out played us for three consecutive days."
After taking the first two games in Toronto, the Rays have been outscored 25-7 in their last four games. Carlos Pena said he couldn't put a finger on the team's sudden funk.
"It's interesting, this game is so volatile," Pena said. "None of us here take anything for granted, but it's just funny how we were in this nice little groove. And we piled up some wins in a row. And at the same time now, we've dropped a few in a row. And you ask if there's anything different. I don't think you can come up with an answer. I would say no. It's just the way the game goes.
"They played great ball. They were extremely aggressive. They were disciplined at the plate. They played unbelievable defense. And their pitching was right on. They flat out beat us."
Garza hit the first batter he faced Sunday and walked two in a five-inning performance that saw him allow five runs on seven hits.
"I didn't have location," Garza said. "My stuff was there, I just didn't locate it well -- the walk, the hit batter, not getting a leadoff man out until the fifth inning kind of hurts. One of those nights you have to learn from it."
However, Garza said he did not lack aggressiveness Sunday night.
"I went after them with my fastball," Garza said. "It's all it was, lack of command a lot. When you get behind the hitter gets in a more comfortable, confident position and gives them pitches to hit."
After the Rays fell behind 2-0, they tied the score after B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford pulled their fifth double steal of the season in the third. Upton then scored on Evan Longoria's sacrifice fly to right and Crawford scored right behind him on the same play when Rangers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia threw wild to third base. At that point, the Rays appeared as though they might snap out of their funk.
"All of that stuff was good stuff," Maddon said. "That's more like us. So you were expecting things to kick in, but it didn't work out tonight."
Young scored the Rangers' third run when Nelson Cruz hit into a fielder's choice that Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett botched. David Murphy and Byrd hit back-to-back sacrifice flies in the fourth to push the Rangers' lead to 5-2.
"There's a lot of energy about them," said Maddon about the Rangers. "They're playing the game right. So they just outplayed us for three nights.
"It always starts with pitching. You either win because you pitch or you lose because you don't pitch well. And they've just been pitching well."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.