Rangers level series with Rays

Oct 1, 2011, 9:28 p.m.
Texas Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland (R) hits a solo home run in the eighth inning as Tampa Bay Rays catcher John Jaso looks on at left during Game 2 of their MLB American League Division Series baseball playoffs at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, October 1, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Stone

ARLINGTON, Texas (Reuters) - The Texas Rangers rallied from an early deficit then survived a late scare to edge the Tampa Bay Rays 8-6 on Saturday and level their best-of-five American League divisional series at 1-1.

The Rays, riding high on confidence after winning their last six games in a row, got off to a fantastic start, building an early 3-0 lead, keyed by a two-run home run by Matt Joyce.

However, their winning streak came to a shuddering halt during a disastrous fourth inning by Rays starter James Shields, who allowed the Rangers to score five times with three singles aided by two hit batsmen and two wild pitches.

"He (Shields) was composed, he was fine, and he would just hit a couple of guys," said Rays manager Joe Maddon.

"And I think he was just trying to make an even better pitch and that's what got him in trouble right there. But stuff-wise, he had his typical stuff, his typical composure. I think he just tried to do too much with those pitches."

Ian Kinsler extended the Rangers lead to 7-3 in the sixth inning with a two-run double, however Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria responded with a three-run home run to narrow the Rangers lead to a precarious 7-6.

Mitch Moreland hit an insurance solo home run in the eighth inning to increase the lead to 8-6 and Neftali Feliz pitched a scoreless ninth inning to save the victory.

"It was nice to see him (Moreland) get the big hit and give us that cushion," said Kinsler. "Any time you can give Nefi (Feliz) an extra run, it is big. That was a big hit for us."

The result tied the best-of-five series at 1-1 with games three and four in Florida on Monday and Tuesday.

The Rays staged an amazing comeback against the New York Yankees on Wednesday just to sneak into the Major League Baseball playoffs and won Friday's opening game against the Rangers 9-0 but were unable to keep their run going.

"I think we got our confidence back," said Rangers manager Ron Washington. "Not that we ever lost it, but we don't usually go through games where we totally get shut down. And yesterday we got shut down for two hits and no runs, but we made some adjustments on Shields and we were able to get him.

"And that's the good thing, so I am very pleased."

Mike Napoli also drove in for two runs for the Rangers while Texas starter Derek Holland gave up three runs in five innings.

(Writing by Mike Mouat in Windsor, Ontario; Editing by Julian Linden)

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