Magic Number: 20
You read here following the Rangers loss in game one of this series in Tampa* that the extra-innings loss due to non-existent offense may have been frustrating to watch, but was ultimately insignificant. While, individually, the same would have been true Saturday night, stomaching a consecutive set of games like that would have been difficult, at the very least.
Thank heavens for Jurickson Profar. Which is something we will probably be saying a lot in the future.
For seven innings, Chris Archer's fastball made the Rangers look foolish. Living in the high 90s, Texas could not catch up, save for one Josh Hamilton blast to dead center that fortuitously followed an Elvis Andrus walk. The Rays' starter allowed just six measly baserunners -- those two included -- in a dominating effort.
Because of Yu Darvish, though, it was enough. It's starting to become pretty clear Darvish's brief bout with being any less than an ace was just that. Four eight innings, he did to the Rays was Archer was doing on the other end, by painting the corners with his fastball to get ahead early, and then finishing opponents off by missing bats (15 times). With eight strikeouts and two walks, he needed just 96 pitches to go eight innings with one earned run allowed.
Just like Derek Holland the night before, it was nearly not enough, after Ian Kinsler couldn't handle a Carlos Pena ground ball directly in to the shift in the eighth, bringing home the tying run with two outs.
The second straight game in the series saw extras, and extras saw the first heroic performance of Profar. With two outs remaining in the 10th, Geovany Soto just missed a home run, doubling to second base. Profar came forth 0-3 with a strikeout and a double play grounded in to, but rewarded Ron Washington for playing him by smacking a ground ball down the right field line for a go-ahead double. An insurance run and a shaky Joe Nathan outing later, and the Rangers have at least one win in St. Pete.
In case you couldn't tell on TV, by the way, that Profar double elicited nearly as much cheering from the crowd as any accomplishment by the Rays, thanks to a big showing by Texas fans in the Trop.
Profar, the best prospect in baseball, waited only until his second start to deliver a game-winning, extra-inning hit. He -- like the pitcher who dominated the Tampa Bay mound -- is set to be a fixture in Texas for a while, doing the same thing we saw Saturday night again; and in bigger spots.
There has been a ton of frustration in this series so far, but the youth on display should eclipse anything else this weekend.
- Jurickson Profar 27%
- Josh Hamilton 24%
- Mike Adams 12%
Biggest Play: Duh (38% Win Probability Added).