ARLINGTON -- The Rays and Rangers know well that a 1-0 lead in a five-game series doesn't mean a whole lot. That understanding extends to a 2-0 lead, too, as strong a position to be in as that is.
A year ago, before the Rays gave the world a new understanding of just how large a deficit a baseball team could overcome this September, they led the Rangers, 2-0, in the 2010 American League Division Series.
Texas won in five games.
"We know we got to keep playing. They're not going to roll over," Rays center fielder B.J. Upton said after his team took its 2011 ALDS opener, 9-0, over the Rangers on Friday. "Definitely need to come out and win again, today is over and we got to focus on tomorrow."
"Not a big deal. We were down 1-0 at the start of the series last year, and we came back and won that," said Friday's losing pitcher, C.J. Wilson. "They did everything right today and we did everything wrong today. ... Do the opposite tomorrow."
So far, this year's Tampa-Texas ALDS matchup has continued to play out like last year's: the visiting team wins. Including 2010, the Rays are 0-for-3 in ALDS games played against the Rangers at Tropicana Field, while the Rangers are 0-for-3 in first-round contests played at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
While the disappearance of homefield advantage is likely a fluke, the Rangers know they can't rely on anything about 2010's outcome to help them this year.
"Whatever happened last year is out the window as far as we're concerned," Michael Young said. "That series is over with."
Facing shift, Hamilton tries bunt on his own
ARLINGTON -- With Elvis Andrus on first and no outs in the sixth inning of the Rangers' 9-0 loss to the Rays on Friday in Game 1 of the American League Division Series, Josh Hamilton bunted Andrus to second.Although it is not strange to see a team play a little small ball in the playoffs, sacrificing outs to move runners around the basepaths, the circumstances made such a move perplexing. The Rangers were losing, 8-0, and Hamilton had 94 RBIs in 121 games in the regular season. Rangers manager Ron Washington said after the game that Hamilton did that on his own, thinking he might be able to bunt for a base hit. "He was playing the shift," Washington said. "I like his thinking, but right there, of course, I think you've got to swing the bat. But if he had gotten the bunt down, we would have had runners on first and second with Mike [Young] coming up." Hamilton confirmed that was his line of thought. "I wanted to get something going," Hamilton said. "I swung the bat well the first two at-bats. If I hit a home run right there, it's 8-2. They give me that bunt all the time. It set up perfectly for me, he threw me a slider, missed in and I bunted it in instead of out like I was trying to do. I was trying to get some momentum going." The move backfired, as Hamilton was thrown out easily by Rays starter Matt Moore, in essence giving up one of the 12 remaining outs the Rangers had to make up the deficit they faced. Hamilton, who singled in the first and doubled in the fourth, was the only Rangers player to record a hit.
Harrison gets in Game 1 as rotation unsettled
ARLINGTON -- Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison are starting for the Rangers when the American League Division Series moves to Tampa Bay on Monday and Tuesday. But manager Ron Washington has yet to announce who will start Game 3 and who will pitch Game 4.
Right now, the Rangers are expecting to start Lewis in Game 3 and Harrison in Game 4, although that hasn't been finalized. The Rays were 31-19 with a left-hander on the mound for the opposing team and 60-52 with a right-hander this year.
"We haven't talked to them yet," Washington said.
Pitching Lewis in Game 3 would keep the Rays from facing three left-handers in a row. Lewis was also 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in four playoff starts last season. He threw eight scoreless innings in a 3-0 victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field on June 1.
Harrison will be making his first playoff start, although he got his first playoff appearance under his belt on Friday, in a 9-0 Texas loss. Harrison essentially took his side session a day early, with the added benefit of seeing just what postseason baseball is all about.
The left-hander threw 15 pitches and recorded two outs in Friday's ninth, letting up one run on one hit and one walk.
"They told me, throw a sider tomorrow, or get an inning today," Harrison said. "It was better for me to probably do it today, to get work in and also give me playoff feel. I didn't get it last year."
"Just get him going. Get him a chance to see what it's like out there, the atmosphere," Washington said of the decision to pitch Harrison. "Today was his side day, and we just wanted him to throw between 10 and 15 pitches. ... Get him a feel of what it's going to be like."
The experience behind him, the 26-year-old Harrison didn't try to downplay the feeling of October baseball as routine.
"It was different from a normal game," he said. "It's a packed house, I know what's at stake right now. It's a little more adrenaline rush than normal, and I'm sure it'll be even more to start the game, but it was good to go out there and get a couple pitches out of the way."
Harrison's only appearance against the Rays this season was two scoreless innings in relief on Aug. 31. He has made just one start in his career against the Rays and it was also eight scoreless innings in a 3-0 victory on Aug. 16, 2008, at the Ballpark in Arlington.
Left-hander Derek Holland will start Game 2 on Saturday.
Rangers start Gentry in left against southpaw
ARLINGTON -- Craig Gentry was in the lineup in left field for the Rangers in Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Friday.Manager Ron Washington decided to go with Gentry in left and Josh Hamilton in center with the Rays throwing left-hander Matt Moore in Game 1. David Murphy, a left-handed hitter who has been playing regularly in September, was on the bench. "I've always given Gentry the left-handers, so he's getting the left-hander today," Washington said. "That doesn't mean you won't see Murphy against left-handers at some point. Gentry started only one game in left field during the regular season. He had 33 starts in center and four starts in right. But Washington is committed to going with Hamilton in center field for the playoffs. "I've got Josh groomed to play center," Washington said. "His mental state is to play center, and I'm not going to mess with his mental state." Nelson Cruz started in right field. Cruz, who is still recovering from a strained left hamstring, said he is 100 percent physically, but Washington is still noticing some tentativeness when he is in the outfield. Washington also still wants Cruz to be cautious when running the bases. "You're not going to see him look like the Cruz of old, but he's good enough," Washington said. "It's going to take him awhile for him to believe he can go. He's got to do it when he's ready." Washington said there is a possibility that Murphy or Endy Chavez could go in defensively for Cruz late in the game if needed. He could also pinch-run for Cruz late if needed. The Game 1 lineup also included Mike Napoli at catcher, Michael Young at first base and Yorvit Torrealba at designated hitter.
Ryan knows Rangers can take the heat
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers took batting practice with temperatures in the high 70's on Friday afternoon. But this came after it hit 100 degrees on Thursday in North Texas, the 71st day of triple-digit temperatures this season.One of the things that Rangers president Nolan Ryan is most proud of is the way both his players and fans endured the difficult summer heat in Texas when temperatures soared to as high as 106 degrees at game time. "I couldn't be any prouder of our ballclub for the season they had and what they have accomplished," Ryan said. "When you look at the conditions in which they did it under, faced with the heat wave we had this year, the record-breaking heat wave, and the way Major League rosters are structured, with the number of pitchers you have to carry. "For them to do what they have done and have the September they've had ... I think it speaks volumes about the character of the ballclub and the makeup of the ballclub." The Rangers set a club record in attendance when they drew 2,946,949 fans to the Ballpark this year. "We couldn't be prouder of our fans and their commitment to come out and support us," Ryan said. "I think our players really do appreciate that. When you look at our society today, people aren't accustomed to being in the heat, and it is very challenging for them to be in the heat and sit out in the heat for four hours. It's not like going out in your yard and doing something for five or 10 minutes. They are out there for four hours. "So, I'm very appreciative of that. Not only did they come out, but they support the team, they wear Rangers garb and are very proud of the Rangers and proud to be a Ranger fan."
Sun to be a factor for Rangers and Rays
ARLINGTON -- With Game 1 of the American League Division Series slated to begin at 4 p.m. CT on Friday, one variable the Rangers and Rays will have to compete with is the sun.The sun is especially a factor in the mid-afternoon at Rangers Ballpark, getting in the eyes of left fielders while they attempt to track down fly balls. Even the Rangers do not have much experience with this, as the team played just 15 day games at home this season, and none beginning at 4 p.m., though three games started at 3 p.m. "The sun is going to be there," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "There is nothing you can do about it unless they put something up there to block the sun. I don't think they'll do that." The Rangers' starting left fielder, Craig Gentry, has started just one game this season in left field, but that one start on Sept. 25 started at 2 p.m. "It shouldn't be too bad. I haven't played left field too much here in the daytime," Gentry said. "I know getting toward six or seven, the sun starts to drop. But I don't think it's that big of a deal."
Triple-A manager Bobby Jones and Double-A manager Steve Buechele will throw out the ceremonial first pitch for Game 2 on Saturday. Both led their teams in Round Rock and Frisco to division titles. B.J. Thomas was to sing the national anthem before Friday's Game 1, and Neal McCoy is down for a Saturday appearance. This is the sixth time American League teams have met in consecutive series, with the Red Sox playing the Angels in three straight from 2007-09. Boston won the first two, while the Angels won in '09. The Yankees beat the Twins in 2009-10, the Athletics in 2000-01 and the Rangers in 1998-99. The Indians beat the Red Sox in '98 before Boston turned that around in '99.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. Louie Horvath is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.