10/07/10 9:00 PM ET
Spin Forward: Rays seek big hit
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
As they head to Texas, a venue that has not been kind to them the last couple of seasons, they can only hope for a drastic change in momentum that will save their season.
At the moment, there is one thing that could swing their fortunes faster than anything else. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay's star third baseman, has the answer.
"We need a big hit," Longoria said. "Someone needs to get a big hit and kind of break the silence."
In the first two games, the Rays didn't get any big hits. In fact, they only mustered a total of two hits in Game 2.
Of the 19 previous teams who have trailed 2-0 in the Division Series, four have come back, most recently the 2003 Red Sox against Oakland. The Rays will try to become No. 5, but they need some firepower to achieve it.
But the Rangers, who are on the cusp of the first postseason series victory in their history, will do their best to continue stifling Tampa Bay. The Rangers' pitching staff has been magnificent in the first two games, holding the Rays to a .125 average. The home run by Ben Zobrist in Game 1 is the only run the Rays scored in either of the first two games.
"You know, being up 2-0 is huge, especially winning two on the road," said Texas manager Ron Washington. "But we still haven't accomplished anything yet. Our goal is to get as far as we possibly can, and we're just going to take it back to Texas and come out and try to play as hard as we can again, and after nine innings see if we've got the lead and got the win. But nothing is won yet."
Over the past two seasons, the Rays are 2-7 at Texas, and have been outscored 69-36 in those nine games.
"We just have to go into their place with the mentality that this series isn't over," said Longoria, who is 1-for-8 in the first two games. "We're still here -- we still have an opportunity to play a baseball game. With that being said, that has to be the belief. It's not a mentality of 'We're going to Texas to lose one game and come back home,' but instead, 'We're going to win two and bring this series back here.'"
Nothing would restore the Rays' confidence quicker than some hits.
To be sure, gaudy offense has never been the hallmark of a Tampa Bay team that won 96 games en route to the American League East title. But the Rays need some semblance of firepower so that they can put their speed in motion.
"We can't even get to our offensive style," said Rays left fielder Carl Crawford. "They've done a good job of stopping it before we even get to it. We haven't been able to play our game, it seems like."
A huge chunk of credit for that goes to the Rangers. Cliff Lee spun a beauty in Game 1, and C.J. Wilson was dominant in Game 2.
Perhaps the Rays -- who send 15-game winner Matt Garza to the hill for Game 3 -- can generate something against right-hander Colby Lewis, who went 12-13 with a 3.72 ERA during the regular season. Lewis didn't face the Rays this season. In his career, he has faced Tampa Bay three times, going 2-0 with a 7.71 ERA. But hardly any of the Rays' current hitters have any history against him. Only Crawford has faced Lewis as many as four times, going 0-for-4. Jason Bartlett and Carlos Pena are both 0-for-1.
So it will basically be a clean slate, which seems to be exactly what the Rays need at the moment.
"We've dealt with it all year -- this has kind of been our offense throughout the course of the year," said catcher Kelly Shoppach. "We've bounced back at certain times, we've had late rallies. I'd say this, we won't go quietly into the night. I guarantee you that. There's too much character in this clubhouse for that."
More than character, however, the Rays need rallies. And they can't wait any longer.
"They've taken a part -- or a component of our game away with the walk," said Rays manager Joe Maddon. "We have not walked that often because of their command issues or how well they've commanded the baseball. So it's not too late. We've just got to get back to the Trop next Tuesday. They've got some righties throwing the next couple days -- we'll pop a different lineup out there and see how that works."