Josh Hamilton is fine after diving head-first into second base in the fifth inning. The only time his fractured ribs hurt was after some heavy breathing after he scored from second on a double by Vladimir Guerrero. Elvis Andrus' left wrist is fine, too, after it was spiked when he was caught stealing second base in the sixth inning. He said he didn't even get treatment for it.
The first-inning at-bat by Carlos Pena was a big topic afterward. The Rangers say it was a foul tip, as plate ump Tim Welke ruled. The Rays said Pena was hit, which would have forced in a run in the bases-loaded, no-outs situation.
Said Lee: "When I threw the pitch, I knew it either hit his hand or hit the bat. It definitely hit something. I could hear it from the mound. When he did not start jumping around and didn't want to go to first base, I had a pretty good feeling it hit the bat. He wasn't really arguing that strongly, so I'm willing to bet it hit the bat."
Escaping there without any runs was the turning point for the Rangers because it gave them a lift heading into the second inning. They scored twice against David Price and added single runs the next three innings.
Neftali Feliz downplayed his nerves in the ninth inning, which he started by walking Pena and pinch-hitter Dan Johnson. There was a hole in the mound where his foot landed, and that was messing him up. He got the next three hitters, though the first out was a rocket line drive to right field. Feliz finished up by striking out pinch-hitters Reid Brignac and Matt Joyce on six pitches.
Jeff Francoeur, who plated the first run with a double, said that the Rangers talked about making the franchise's first playoff game since 1999 just like a regular-season game. Manager Ron Washington told the players in a five-minute pregame meeting that the heavy lifting was over and now is the time to have some fun. Lee's work in the first helped make that possible.
“If Cliff gives up a couple runs that inning, you never know what happens,” Francoeur said. “You could tell in the dugout. He started smiling, and it was like, ‘Boys, this thing is over.’ ”
Nelson Cruz's third-inning solo homer traveled 438 feet and landed on the roof of a restaurant beyond the center-field wall at Tropicana Field. It came on a 3-0 pitch, as did Guerrero's double. "That's all I've got," Cruz said. "I can't hit a ball any further than that."
The Rangers' first playoff victory in 1996 was 5,116 days ago.
-- Jeff Wilson