The two names on everyone's lips this morning are Mike Napoli and Colby Lewis.
Hard to argue with that. Napoli showed a national audience what Rangers fans have known all year with his game-changing home run off David Price. His bat carries thunder and glory deep, so much of each that he's the hidden MVP of the 2011 baseball season.
Lewis, meanwhile, reminded us that it was just a year ago when he was something other than a frustrating pitcher incapable of being consistent from start to start or even inning to inning. There haven't been many pitchers in history to throw six innings of one-hit baseball and even fewer who have added six strikeouts on top of that.
Both men are worthy of celebration, but leave a little room for Ron Washington and Jackie Moore. The Rangers manager and bench coach deserve some praise for the way they used the running game to great advantage both offensively and defensively on Monday night.
Offensively, the Rangers decided that they were going to take advantage of the fact that the Rays went with John Jaso behind the plate in an attempt to generate a little more offense. They ran all day long, winding up with four stolen bases before the night was through. None were bigger than the two Craig Gentry came up with in the seventh inning.
Gentry singled to knock David Price out of the game and then stole second while Brandon Gomes was working to Ian Kinsler. Gomes bailed out of the at-bat and walked Kinsler to put runners on first and second with two out. Then, on the first pitch to Elvis Andrus, Gentry took off again on the front end of the double steal and was safe at third to put runners on second and third.
Andrus wound up walking as Gomes again seemed to prefer filling the open base at first to challenging the hitter at the plate. Josh Hamilton singled, two more runs scored and the Rangers were on their way to victory. There's no doubt that Gentry's aggressiveness on the bases wound up changing the way the inning played out and, based on what happened with Darren Oliver and Mike Adams, no doubt that it was crucial to the win.
Equally important was the way the Rangers thwarted the running game when the Rays were at the plate in the eighth. Up a run with B.J. Upton on first base after a walk, the Rangers pulled out all the stops to be sure that he would not steal second and make life worse for a reeling Adams. They threw over six times to keep Upton close and then called a pitchout because they were sure Upton was going to go.
Upton was going, Napoli naturally threw him out because he is in a zone of all zones right now and the Rangers were able to get out of the inning when Neftali Feliz rescued Adams.
Any one of those decisions backfire and there's a good chance we're sitting here ripping Washington and Moore for making them. So they deserve a little praise for pushing the right buttons and putting the team on the brink of a trip to the ALCS.