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Rangers Road Warriors

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Mike Napoli, Nelson Cruz, Leonys Martin, Josh Hamilton

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By FRED GOODALL   AP Baseball Writer
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) _ Back on the road in the playoffs,
the Texas Rangers won again.
Colby Lewis outpitched All-Star David Price, Mike Napoli hit a
go-ahead two-run homer and the defending AL champions survived a
shaky night from the bullpen to hold off the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3
Monday night in Game 3 of their postseason series.

The Rangers’ fourth straight division series road win matches
the third-longest streak in major league history and gives Texas a
2-1 lead heading into Game 4 Tuesday at Tropicana Field. Texas won
three ALDS games here a year ago, when it eliminated Tampa Bay in
five games.

Rookie Desmond Jennings hit a pair of solo homers for the Rays,
who kept it interesting by scoring twice off Rangers relievers
before Neftali Feliz got four outs for his second save of the
series.

Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre, playing deep and guarding the
line to prevent a double in the ninth, started an around-the-horn
double play on Kelly Shoppach’s grounder to end it.

Price was the losing pitcher in two of Tampa Bay’s playoff
losses in 2010 and welcomed the opportunity to try to redeem
himself against the only AL opponent he’s yet to beat in his
career.

The left-hander shrugged off a poor outing in his last regular
season start to take a 1-0 lead into the seventh, thanks to Desmond
Jennings’ fourth-inning homer off Lewis.

Beltre singled leading off the seventh against Price and took
second a wild pitch. A crowd of 32,828 _ the first sellout at
Tropicana Field since opening day _ fell silent when Napoli lifted
a 2-2 pitch into the seats in left-center for a 2-1 advantage. Josh
Hamilton extended the lead with a two-run single off reliever J.P.
Howell.

As good as Price was early, Lewis was better in limiting the
Rays to one hit over six innings. Jennings’ first homer was the
only hit off the right-hander, who had worked 16 consecutive
scoreless innings against the Rays up to that point _ a stretch
that began with a five-inning stint in last year’s ALDS and
continued with an eight-inning performance to beat Price and the
Rays on June 1.

But the Rangers bullpen nearly let a three-run lead slip away.
Johnny Damon, Ben Zobrist and Casey Kotchman singled to load the
bases against reliever Darren Oliver in the seventh. Damon scored
when pinch-hitter Sean Rodriguez grounded out, and the Rangers
escaped further damage when the second pitcher of the inning, Alexi
Ogando, induced pinch-hitter Sam Fuld to hit a roller to second
base.

The Rays weren’t finished. Jennings led off eighth with his
second homer, trimming Texas’ lead to 4-3. Mike Adams walked B.J.
Upton, who was caught stealing, and then walked Evan Longoria and
Matt Joyce to get himself into trouble again.

The Rangers wiggled off the hook when Michael Gonzales struck
out Damon. Feliz came on to fan Zobrist with the tying and go-ahead
runs in scoring position.

Price lost at home to Cliff Lee and the Rangers twice in last
year’s ALDS and was coming off a disappointing outing against the
Yankees in which he allowed six runs in four innings of a game that
the Rays needed to win to ensure they stayed alive for the
wild-card berth on the final night.

Tampa Bay rallied from a seven-run deficit to grab the playoff
spot on Longoria’s homer, but that didn’t stop questions about
whether the Rays could count on him in a big game.
The 26-year-old lefty was 0-5 with a 5.40 ERA in eight career
starts against Texas before Monday, yet insisted he didn’t lack
confidence to get the job done in Game 3.

The Rangers had chances against him early, stranding runners in
scoring position in the first, second and sixth innings. Michael
Young lined to first baseman Kotchman, who made a diving catch to
end the first. Nelson Cruz and Mitch Moreland grounded out after
Napoli singled and stole second base in the second. Price escaped
the sixth by retiring Hamilton and Young on groundballs.

With Lewis pitching, Rays manager Joe Maddon tinkered with the
bottom of his batting order, stacking six consecutive left-handers
behind righty-hitting Jennings, Upton and Longoria, who went 0 for
3 with three strikeouts against the Rangers starter _ once with
Upton in scoring position after walking and stealing second in the
fourth.

NOTES: Only two teams have won more than four consecutive LDS
road games. The Atlanta Braves won eight straight from 1995-99. The
Yankees won five in a row from 2003-05. … Lewis allowed an
AL-leading 38 home runs during the regular season. The Rays have
outhomered the Rangers 7-2 in the first three games of the series.
… Hamilton and Young combined to go 0 for 6 against Price and are
5 for 45 against the Rays pitcher in their careers. … The family
of pro football Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon threw out the
ceremonial first pitch. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive
end died on Sept. 4.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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