The Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers each finished the 162-portion of their schedule with identical marks of 91-71. In order to advance to the Wild Card game against the Cleveland Indians Wednesday evening in Cleveland the two teams will meet in Arlington Monday night at 8:07 p.m. to play game 163.
The Rays and Rangers are familiar foes in the playoffs as in both 2010 and 2011 the Rays were eliminated from the playoffs in the American League Division Series (ALDS) by the Rangers. In the process Monday’s starter David Price was 0-3 with a 4.66 ERA (10ER/19.1 IP). He allowed 24 hits including 3 home runs while striking out 17 and only walking 1.
Ron Washington‘s Rangers have routinely challenged the Rays defense in their regular season meetings over the last several season and in the post-season. They have been very aggressive when David Price was on the mound as they are constantly trying to disrupt him and generate action.
For the Rays and especially David Price there would be no sweeter moment than to celebrate a victory Monday night in Texas as the Rangers have clinched the deciding game at Tropicana Field in 2010 and 2011.
David Price made his first post-season start of his young career and was matched up against Cliff Lee. He was shaky as he allowed 5R/4ER on 9 hits including home runs to Nelson Cruz and Bengie Molina. Cliff Lee was dominant as he held the Rays bats silent allowing 1 run over 7 innings fanning 10 Rays along the way.
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After the Rays dropped the first two games at home they traveled back to Arlington winning both games 3 and 4 to set up a winner take all Game 5 back at Tropicana Field.
Price was better allowing just 3R/ER on 6 hits in 6 innings of work but Cliff Lee was fantastic tossing a complete game allowing just 1R/ER on 6 hits while striking out 11 and walking none.
The Rangers victory came mostly as a result of aggressive baserunning and playing small ball. In the top of the first inning the Rangers set the tone as Elvis Andrus singled and stole second. Josh Hamilton sent a ground ball to Carlos Pena who flipped to Price covering first. Andrus seemed to catch Price and the Rays off guard as he did not stop at 3rd and came in to score on the routine ground ball.
The Rangers aggressive base running paid off again in the 4th inning to take a 2-1 lead. Nelson Cruz attempted to steal third and catcher Kelly Shoppach‘s throw sailed into left field allowing Cruz to come in to score.
The aggressive style paid dividends again in the 6th inning with the Rangers holding a 2-1 lead. With Vladimir Guerroro on second and Nelson Cruz at first Ian Kinsler sent a ground ball to Carlos Pena who fired to Jason Bartlett at 2nd to erase Cruz. Bartlett’s relay throw was late and as the umpire signaled safe Price went to argue and the alert Guerrero raced in from 2nd to score.
Price was unavailable for the first two games of the series which the teams split a game apiece because he had made the final start in the dramatic Game 162.
In 6.2 innings of work he allowed 3R/ER on 8 hits striking out 6 and walking 0. The Rays scored first on a Desmond Jennings solo homer in the bottom of the 4th but were unable to get another hit off Rangers starter Colby Lewis through his 6 innings of work.
The Ranger took control of the pivotal game 3 in the 7th inning. Adrian Beltre led off the inning with a single, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and came in to score on a Mike Napoli home run which put the Rangers on top 2-1.
The Rangers could smell blood in the water and Gentry stole second. Gomes walked Kinsler and then he and Gentry pulled the double steal. Gomes then walked Elvis Andrus to load the bases which brought left handed hitting Josh Hamilton to the plate.
Joe Maddon responded by bringing in left handed reliever J.P. Howell who had allowed 6 of the last 11 batters he faced in the regular season to reach base. Hamilton delivered a 2-RBI single to put the Rangers on top 4-1.
The Rays loaded the bases with 1-out in the bottom of the 7th but were only able to push across a single run on a Sean Rodriguez ground out to first to cut the lead to 4-2.
Desmond Jennings hit his second solo home run of the game in the bottom of the 8th to draw the Rays to within 1 at 4-3 but Netfali Feliz came in to record the last 4 outs of the game and give the Rangers a 2-1 series edge.
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Although not technically a playoff game it is a loser go home game and it would have to be a fulfilling moment for David Price and the Rays to deliver the knock out blow in Arlington.