The Texas Rangers came to St. Petersburg to play the Tampa Bay Rays in the first two of a best-of-five series to move on in the playoffs. Those Rays boasted the best record in the American League regular season, and we fans thought for sure they would simply find a way to take care of business, much as they have all year long.
Alas, the Rays found a way to come up woefully short.
Rays Vs. Rangers Game 1: Rays get average pitching, little offense in 5-1 loss.
Rays Vs. Rangers Game 2: Rays get average pitching, no offense in 6-0 loss.
Down 0-2 to the Texas Rangers, Rays fans — the entire Tampa Bay metropolitan area, really — resigned themselves to the fact that Rays’ pitchers had gone to sleep, and the bats would never wake up.
Even worse, the team was headed to the homer-friendly confines of Arlington, Texas. It was over.
But once there, something changed. Or rather, things didn’t change at all. When their back was against the wall, your Tampa Bay Rays found a way to scrape out a win, and then another win.
Rays Vs. Rangers Game 3: Rays get decent pitching, offense wakes up late in 6-3 win.
Rays Vs. Rangers Game 4: Rays get 12 hits, solid pitching in 5-2 win.
We should have known.
Read Erik Hahmann’s Monday morning bit:
This Rays team never does anything the easy way. They make the playoffs two times in three years by out-smarting their AL East brethren. They make the playoffs this season after being no hit twice. They become only the second team since 1920 to score more than 800 runs while hitting .250 or lower. They regularly feature two hitters with averages below .200, one in the heart of the order. They have a rookie catcher batting lead off.
There’s just nothing normal or easy about them. Yet, here they are in the first winner-take-all game since Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS.
It’s true. These 2010 Rays simply find a way to succeed. And more often than not, it’s when it seems all hope is lost.
By the way, Cliff Lee will take the mound for the Rangers Tuesday night.