Rangers blank Rays in Game 1: Here’s what we learned


The Texas Rangers watched a division title slip out of their grasp Sunday, took a cross-country flight more than five hours from Seattle to Tampa Bay and somehow still looked like the crisper, calmer, more energized team Tuesday to start the wild-card series.

Here’s more from their 4-0 win in Game 1 at Tropicana Field.

What we’ll remember

The final dagger came in the sixth inning, when Corey Seager lined a ball toward Rays center fielder Jose Siri, who hadn’t played in a game in three weeks and was questionable entering the series as he recovered from a fractured right hand.


Siri looked uncertain as he charged it, getting caught in between catching the ball and playing it off the grass. The ball bounced in for a hit, and Siri was lucky to get any part of his body in front of it as it ricocheted off him and up into the air. As one run scored to increase the Rangers’ lead to 3-0, Siri grabbed the ball, then airmailed a throw over third base to bring in another run.

It was the Rays’ fourth error of the game — their most in any game this season.

The play from Siri came one batter after starter Tyler Glasnow departed. Glasnow walked five in the outing, but the first three errors of the game also ran up his pitch count and played a significant role in his removal after five-plus innings.

The way Jordan Montgomery was cruising for Texas, that play felt like the end.


The best deadline acquisition in baseball took the mound for Texas in Game 1. 

Montgomery has developed into the Rangers’ ace, going at least six innings and allowing one or no runs in each of his final four starts of the regular season. His production has been vital for a Texas rotation missing Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Jon Gray, and it was more of the same Tuesday in Tampa Bay as Montgomery held the Rays scoreless for seven innings.

While the defense behind Glasnow failed the Rays starter, the Rangers — one of the best defenses in the majors this year — looked stout behind Montgomery. Evan Carter ended the first inning with a diving catch and Montgomery added his own an inning later to record an out on a sacrifice bunt attempt before stranding two.

Montgomery stranded a runner in scoring position in the third and sixth innings, but the Rays rarely threatened. Montgomery allowed just four hard-hit balls, only one of which dropped in for a hit. He struck out five and needed only 93 pitches to go seven. 

Inside the box score 

The Rays scored the fourth-most runs in baseball this season, yet Tuesday felt like cruel déja vu for a Tampa Bay offense that hasn’t scored a run now in 27 consecutive playoff innings (the Rays mustered one run in 24 innings in their 2022 wild-card defeat to Cleveland). Randy Arozarena’s third-inning double off Montgomery was the Rays’ only extra-base hit of the day. 

Nursing a 4-0 lead might seem like a simple feat, but considering the late-inning troubles in Texas, it had to feel like a relief (no pun intended) to shut it down. Aroldis Chapman and Jose Leclerc combined to allow just one baserunner in the final two innings, which could be a confidence booster for a maligned Rangers bullpen that entered the playoffs with a 4.77 ERA and more blown saves than converted saves on the season. 

For a while, it looked like the Rangers might rue their bevy of missed opportunities. Through five innings, the Rays had already committed three errors and thrown a wild pitch with the bases loaded, and yet Texas led just 2-0. They finished the day 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position with 13 left on base, an area they’ll likely have to clean up if they want to advance. 

What surprised us?

Not really a surprise, considering the way he played in September, but it’s worth noting rookie Evan “Full-Count” Carter’s performance. The 21-year-old hadn’t played above Double-A as of late August. In his first postseason game Tuesday, he made a diving catch and reached base all four times up with two six-pitch walks and two of the Rangers’ three doubles. If there were still any questions about how he’d handle the pressure, he answered them. 

The Rays have thrived all year at home (53-28), but the announced attendance for Game 1 was 19,704 at The Trop. Even for a game in the middle of a work day (first pitch was 3:07 p.m. local time), that’s not a typical playoff home-field advantage.

What’s next? 

This felt like a game the Rangers had to have. After Montgomery, the reliability of a depleted Texas pitching staff wanes.

Game 2 starter Nathan Eovaldi was an All-Star this year, but there was a stark difference between his ferocious first half (2.83 ERA, 3.52 K/BB, .213 AVG against) and a second half that was limited to seven suspect starts (7.18 ERA, 1.44 K/BB, .272 AVG against) after he suffered a forearm strain. Will he be able to find his form?

The Rays will turn to Zach Eflin, who tied for the American League lead with 16 wins, hoping he can add another to keep their season alive. Eflin has been a model of consistency in Tampa Bay, allowing three runs or fewer in each of his last eight starts. Expect about five innings from him if all goes well early, but with Zack Littell and Aaron Civale both available in the event of a Game 3, don’t be surprised to see the Rays’ bullpen get active quickly if it doesn’t.

Both starters were among baseball’s best free-agent acquisitions this year, both were vital pieces for depleted rotations and both are righties who possess a distinct ability to neutralize left-handed hitters. That won’t stop Tampa Bay from inserting lefty Josh Lowe into the lineup after he had the day off against Montgomery. Will he give Tampa Bay the offensive jolt it needs? Or will its postseason offensive malaise continue?

First pitch is again at 3 p.m. local time Wednesday.

Rowan Kavner covers the Dodgers and MLB as a whole for FOX Sports. He previously was the Dodgers’ editor of digital and print publications. Follow him on Twitter at @RowanKavner. 

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