ALDS Game 2: Napoli’s hit keys Rangers’ 8-6 win over Rays; series tied

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ARLINGTON, Texas — With Texas Rangers fans chanting his name, Mike Napoli kept fouling off pitches until getting the big hit after James Shields had hit two batters.

Then Tampa Bay’s starter really got wild.

After Napoli’s two-run single, Shields threw a pair of wild pitches to the same batter. One of the balls in the dirt sent home the tiebreaking run in a five-run fourth inning for the Rangers in an 8-6 win Saturday night that evened the AL division series at a game apiece.

The defending American League champion Rangers were finally on the board in the game — and in the series after being held to two hits in the opener by 22-year-old rookie left-hander Matt Moore and two 20-something relievers in Tampa Bay’s first-ever postseason shutout.

This time, the home team finally won a postseason game between the Rangers and Rays.

Game 3 in the best-of-five series is Monday in Tampa. Colby Lewis pitches for the Rangers against David Price.

Texas was trailing 3-0 when Elvis Andrus was hit by a breaking pitch leading off the fourth. Josh Hamilton then singled between the shortstop and the second baseman, both positioned on the right side of the infield against the slugger. Michael Young’s sharp single to left loaded the bases.

The Rangers then got their first run of the series when Shields hit Adrian Beltre with a fastball near his left knee, forcing in a run.

When Shields threw three consecutive balls to Napoli, the chants of “Nap-o-li!, Nap-o-li!” began and only grew louder with each swing. Napoli swung and missed at two pitches, then fouled off three consecutive before ripping a liner to left that tied the game at 3.

Manager Ron Washington pumped both fists with a shout, team president Nolan Ryan clapped in the front row nearby and those chants turned to earsplitting cheers from a towel-waving crowd of 51,351.

Nelson Cruz struck out and David Murphy fell behind 0-2. What followed were a couple of foul balls and the wild pitch that allowed Beltre and Napoli to move up a base as Murphy worked to a full count. Then came a pitch that Murphy swung and missed, but the ball hit in the dirt and ricocheted away from catcher Kelly Shoppach, allowing Beltre to score. Napoli came home on Mitch Moreland’s grounder.

Napoli and Cruz had consecutive singles to start the sixth and chase Shields. Kinsler sent both of them home with a double to make it 7-3. Moreland added a towering one-out homer in the eighth for the Rangers, their first long ball of the postseason and his first at home since June 21.

The double by Kinsler and home run by Moreland wound up being huge in the rematch of last year’s AL division series, when the visiting team won every game in the five-game series — the only time that has ever happened in the majors.

Texas was 0-7 all-time in ALDS games at home, including four to the New York Yankees over three series in the 1990s, until now.

Two trades in a matter of five days last winter sent Napoli to Texas. The catcher-first baseman played the first five seasons of his career with the AL West rival Los Angeles Angels, before he was traded last winter to Toronto and then dealt only four days after that to the Rangers. He set career highs by hitting .320 with 30 homers and 75 RBIs.

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