ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Rays right fielder Matt Joyce was impressed with the 50,000-plus at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in Games 1 and 2 of the ALDS. And he believes the towel-waving fans helped the Texas Rangers score five runs in a big fourth inning Saturday.
"I thought they were great and they really got into it," said Joyce, who was 1-for-4 with a two-run homer off Derek Holland on Saturday. "I thought they played a big part of that inning. With what happens sometimes with big crowds and playoff atmospheres is guys can let the crowd dictate their pace of the game, their emotions and when that happens, things can go a little irratic and get a little hectic out there."
Rays starter James Shields, who looked great for three innings, wasn't as successful in the fourth. The Rangers were able to lay off the off-speed pitch out of the zone, forcing Shields to try to grab more of the strike zone. Texas took advantage. But two wild pitches and two hit-by-pitches in the inning didn't help the Rays' cause, either.
"You see little things happen that don't normally happen for us," Joyce said. "Shields never hits anybody and he ends up doing that. [Kelly] Shoppach is one of the best catchers in the league and instead of blocking a ball and keeping it in front of him, the ball gets away from him. Things just kind of go their way. So, hopefully when we come back home, things can go our way."
Joyce also said that the Rays feel good about where they are in the series, but consider these next two home games critical.
"Everybody's fine with it," Joyce said. "I think these next two games are huge for us because we want to win both of them. We don't want to back to Texas and be put in that situation where you're playing that final game on the road. I think we're satisfied with where we're at, but these next two games are games we really want to win. That's the point where we're at."