Sweep! Nathan Eovaldi, Evan Carter knock out Rays as Rangers advance
(AP photo/John Raoux)
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Left on the side of the baseball road Sunday after missing out on the American League West title, the Rangers weren’t supposed to do what they did the past two days.
They pitched, they hit and they played terrific defense. They played like they had in May and June, when they put themselves in position to even reach the postseason for the first time since 2016.
Tampa Bay didn’t stand a chance.
The Rangers finished off a two-game sweep of the Rays on Wednesday, as Nathan Eovaldi allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings and Evan Carter connected for a two-run homer en route to an easy 7-1 victory at Tropicana Field.
Up next is the AL Division Series against Baltimore, with the first two games scheduled for Saturday and Sunday before the best-of-5 series shifts to Globe Life Field.
The Rangers weren’t all that chatty about the Orioles, the only AL team to win 100 games (101-61) this season. They enjoyed talking about their wins over the team that won 99 times and posted the league’s best home record.
“Just the resilience of at-bats, pitching, competing,” shortstop Corey Seager said. “We never got done. We’ve never gone done. We’ve never just gone away and rolled over. To be able to do that in big moments and calm the nerves, it’s really special.”
Seager collected two doubles but wasn’t the story on offense. Carter’s homer capped a four-run fourth inning that opened with Adolis Garcia breaking a scoreless tie with a home run and included a Josh Jung blooper that turned into an RBI triple.
Carter hit the next pitch from Zack Eflin out to right-center field.
“He threw the exact same pitch the at-bat before, and I fouled it off,” said Carter, who reached in 7 of 8 plate appearances in the series. “I didn’t want to miss it again.”
Jung also doubled twice, as did Seager. Marcus Semien and Seager delivered back-to-back RBI doubles in the sixth to put the Rangers up 7-0. The other run came in the fifth on a Nathaniel Lowe chopper.
The Rays scored their only run in the series in the seventh, when they pieced together three singles against Eovaldi. He hadn’t gone more than five innings since coming off the injured list last month, and he hadn’t pitched past six innings since July 1.
He beat the Rays for the third time this year.
“I knew my job today was just go out there and attack the hitters as best as possible and wait until our offense was able to pus some runs across the board,” Eovaldi said. “And they were able to do that in the fourth inning. From that moment on, it’s attack, attack, attack.”
The Rangers are scheduled to depart for Baltimore on Thursday, so they might have done some of the partying they didn’t do after clinching a spot in the postseason. Right-hander Dane Dunning is in line to start Game 1, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday.
Jeff Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org