Rangers push Rays to brink of elimination

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The Rays, whose .247 batting average was the lowest for an AL club that made the postseason since the 1981 Oakland Athletics, were held to eight hits in two games at Tropicana Field, where they had one of the best home records in the league this season.

Texas pitchers fanned 23 batters in two days, which is not surprising. Tampa Bay’s 1,292 strikeouts this season were the most by a major league team that reached the playoffs.

“They pitched two really good games, so there’s not too much you can do about that,” Carl Crawford said. “We’ve just got to hope we can get the next guy that’s coming.”

Young broke the game open in the fifth with a 431-foot shot to center field off Chad Qualls, who thought he had a strikeout on a 2-2 pitch. Plate umpire Jim Wolf — the brother of Brewers pitcher Randy Wolf — appealed to first base umpire Jerry Meals, who ruled that Young held up in time.

Rays players were incensed on the bench, and replays showed that Young probably went too far. After the home run on the next pitch for a 5-0 Rangers lead, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon left the dugout to talk with Qualls and was ejected by Wolf after he yelled at Meals from the mound.

“Once he said safe, I’ve got to turn the page and focus on the next pitch,” Young said. “It’s really not my job to make decisions there.”

Maddon also disputed a crucial call early in Wednesday’s 5-1 loss to Lee. Plate umpire Tim Welke said a pitch hit Carlos Pena’s bat with the bases loaded in the first inning, ruling it a foul tip. Maddon unsuccessfully argued that Pena was hit by the pitch.

Tampa Bay failed to score when Pena and Rocco Baldelli struck out.

“The Rangers have outplayed us for two consecutive nights, so I’ve got to give them all the credit,” Maddon said. “You can’t win games by just getting two hits, but I had to make my point. … That’s all that was about.”

Maddon became the 15th manager to be ejected from a postseason game and first since Tony La Russa was thrown out of St. Louis’ 2-1 loss at Houston in Game 4 of the NL championship series on Oct. 16, 2005, according to research by STATS LLC.

Welke, the umpire crew chief, thought Wolf and Meals “showed a lot of restraint” before Maddon was tossed.

“Obviously, it’s a judgment call,” Welke told a pool reporter. “He felt it was close, but he felt he didn’t go, and that’s what he said.”

Kinsler homered in the fourth off losing pitcher James Shields, who got the Game 2 assignment for Tampa Bay even though he lost 15 games during the regular season and hadn’t won since Aug. 29. The right-hander allowed four runs and four hits over 4 1-3 innings.

Kinsler also had an RBI single off Qualls in the fifth.

With the Rays facing a lefty starter for the second straight day, Maddon held the struggling Pena out of the lineup. Wilson has been extremely tough on left-handed batter this season, and Pena — whose .196 batting average was the lowest among all major league qualifiers — went 0 for 3 with three strikeouts against Lee on Wednesday.

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