MLB Playoffs 2011: Key Moments in Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers ALDS Series

Paul OxenburyContributor IIIOctober 5, 2011

MLB Playoffs 2011: Key Moments in Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers ALDS Series

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    Of the four Divisional Championship Series, the Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers match up looked to be the closest.

    Tampa Bay came into the series on the back of their remarkable September run, which saw them eliminate the Boston Red Sox. Texas, on the other hand, had won the AL West with relative ease.

    In the end the Rangers won the series three games to one, but the other than the first game—which the Rays won easily—the rest were extremely close.

    This made the small moments even more important and it was Texas who won most of them. Here are five.

1. Game Two: James Shields’ Fourth Inning Meltdown.

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    After a crushing win in game one and a remarkable pitching performance from Matt Moore, all the momentum was with Tampa Bay.

    Leading 3-0 with James Shields, arguably the Rays best pitcher this year on the mound, you would have expected the Rays to continue their good form and take a 2-0 lead back to Florida.

    Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, Shields lost his composure giving up two singles, hitting two batters and throwing two wild pitches in giving up five runs. Suddenly, Texas was on top and the momentum had crucially shifted.

    Although Tampa hit back in the seventh, it was not enough and Texas levelled at 1-1.

2. Game Three: Mike Napoli’s Home Run

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    Tampa Bay must have been feeling pretty confident about this one. They had their ace, David Price, going against Colby Lewis, who had struggled through much of the regular season.

    It was looking quite good going into the seventh inning as the Rays lead 1-0 thanks to a Desmond Jennings home run but, after Adrian Beltre singled, Mike Napoli hit a two run shot that put Texas on top.

    The Rangers added a couple more runs in the innings to lead 4-1, the only runs they would score in the game.

3. Game Three: B.J Upton Caught Stealing.

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    To the Ray’s credit, they continued to fight back. Against Mike Adams, one of the best relievers in the game, Jennings had lead off with another home run. After walking and with Evan Longoria batting, B.J. Upton was caught stealing by Mike Napoli.

    A shaky Adams then walked Longoria and Matt Joyce. Had Upton not tried to steal, Tampa would potentially have had the bases loaded with no one out. In the event, Johnny Damon and Ben Zobrist struck out and Texas got out of the inning.

    Had Upton not tried to steal, it may have been a different story.

4. Game Three: Kelly Shoppach Grounds into Game Ending Double Play

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    Tampa had another chance to start a comeback in the bottom of the ninth.

    After Sean Rodriguez one out single against Rangers closer Neftali Feliz, Kelly Shoppach had the chance to tie or win the game with one swing of the bat.

    In the end though, Shoppach only managed to ground into a double play as Beltre and Ian Kinsler showed no nerves in extinguishing the Rays chances of stealing a win.

    As it was, Texas claimed the crucial third game.

5. Game Four: Ian Kinsler’s Home Run

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    Facing elimination, the Rays needed to make a good start to game four to regain the momentum.

    What happened was quite the opposite. With the second pitch of the game, Ian Kinsler homered of Jeremy Hellickson silencing a full house at Tropicana Field. Hellickson never really settled and was out of the game after four innings giving up two homers to Beltre.

    Again, Tampa kept fighting and had the tying run on base in the bottom of the ninth, but just like the rest of the series, Tampa lost the small moments.