Moreland gets 'left' in lineup for Game 3

Moreland gets 'left' in lineup for Game 3

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays will have left-hander David Price on the mound for Game 3 of the American League Division Series, and Mitch Moreland will be at first base for the Rangers.

Moreland has been sitting against many left-handers lately, including Game 1 against Rays rookie Matt Moore, but Rangers manager Ron Washington confirmed he will start at first on Monday night.

"He gives us another threat," Washington said. "One swing of the bat, he can make a big difference. He gives us another defensive help right there at first base. Right now, he's feeling good about himself, and I want to give him that opportunity to continue."

Moreland hit an eighth-inning home run in the Rangers' 8-6 victory over the Rays in Game 2 on Saturday night. But he had two other important plays. He drove in the last run in the five-run fifth inning with a simple ground ball to shortstop, and he saved a run in the top of the sixth with the Rangers holding a 5-3 lead. After Casey Kotchman hit a two-out double, Moreland made a diving stop to his right on Matt Joyce's hard grounder and flipped to Alexi Ogando for the third out.

"Awesome play. ... Ogando didn't hesitate and we got out of that inning," Washington said.

Moreland was 1-for-3 with the home run and two RBIs in Game 2. That leaves him hitting .347 with two home runs and nine RBIs in 16 postseason games for Texas. That's the highest postseason batting average for any current Rangers player.

"This is what you play for," Moreland said. "You always want to be ready to go and be focused, and at this point, that's what it is all about: staying focused, helping the team and contributing."

The Rangers, loading up with right-handed bats, started Yorvit Torrealba at designated hitter and Michael Young at first base in Game 1. But the Rangers managed just two hits and both were by lefty-swinging Josh Hamilton. Torrealba was 0-for-3.

Torrealba is 0-for-6 in his career against Price while Moreland has never faced him in the regular season. The Rangers faced Price twice last season in the ALDS, and Moreland did not start Game 1. But he was in the lineup for Game 5, going 1-for-4 with a double as the Rangers advanced with a 5-1 victory. He was 0-for-2 against Price.

Moreland hit .234 with one home run and nine RBIs in 111 at-bats against left-handers this season. His .279 slugging percentage and .577 OBP (on-base plus slugging) against left-handers were the ninth-lowest in the AL among those with at least 100 at-bats against them.

"He can still put together a good at-bat against them," Rangers hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh said. "The numbers haven't shown it over the course of a year. But right now I think he's in a good frame of mind, and not just because of the home run. He's feeling good physically and he confident that if he does get the opportunity, he can put together that good at-bat against left-handers."

Moreland only has one career home run in the regular season off a left-hander. But he hit a three-run home run off Jonathan Sanchez in Game 3 of the World Series against the Giants. So far, Moreland appears immune to the pressure of postseason, no matter who is on the mound, and Washington wants to ride that in Game 3.

"He's a gamer and he never gets affected by adversity," Washington said. "That's just his makeup."

Moreland played in just 15 games in September, his fewest in any month this season. He also hit .167, his lowest average of the year for any month. But he was also sitting against a run of right-handers because the Rangers couldn't get him in the lineup.

Nelson Cruz was coming back from a strained left hamstring, he had to be used at designated hitter to get needed at-bats, and Young had to play first base in place of Moreland. Now Cruz is back in right and Moreland is back at first base.

"I never gave up on Mitch as our first baseman," Washington said. "He can handle the position against anybody. He's ready to go. That's why he's going to be in there."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.