Tampa Bay drills Toronto, 13-1.
Mariano Rivera drills Jeff Francoeur, reenacting the Randy Johnson GEICO commercial. (Only with slightly less of a flesh wound.)
And just like that, as Texas reduces its magic number to 14, the Rays pull to within half a game of the Yankees and a possible first-round matchup with the Rangers. New York travels to Tampa after today's series finale in Arlington.
Francoeur is now 5 for 13 (.385/.400/.385) with one big hit-by-pitch and three RBI as a Ranger, which is two more than Jorge Cantu and Cristian Guzman have in a combined 121 Texas plate appearances.
He was 1 for 1 lifetime against Rivera, with a single to center on June 28, 2006, his first full season in the big leagues, a year in which he hit 29 homers and drove in 103 runs at age 22, looking like he was embarking on a extraordinary career, one that would look nothing like a series of events that would see him traded unceremoniously for Joaquin Arias in an August 31 waivers trade four years later.
If you recorded the game, go back and look at what Ian Kinsler did with the first pitch he saw from Rivera, grounding it foul. Look at Kinsler's swing. Look at it.
Cliff Lee against Dustin Moseley (off of whom the Rangers have hit .347/.411/.520 in 24.2 innings) today, and New York will certainly give Rivera the day off.
If Lee, who says his back is better, returns to form this afternoon, Texas stands a real chance of sweeping New York in a series the Yankees needed, without Josh Hamilton. In a season full of mind-blowing moments, that would rank up there, even if not as high as the greatest closer of all time losing a game on a hit batsman.
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(c) Jamey Newberg