After battling all season long, literally, to win the AL East division and secure homefield advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Rays went out immediately and put up two lackluster efforts to lose the first two games of the American League Divisional Series to the Texas Rangers at Tropicana Field. Given up for dead, they went to Arlington and beat the Rangers twice, in convincing fashion, in their ballpark. As a result, they find themselves facing a winner-take-all, one game finale to close out the series and move on to the ALCS against the New York Yankees. A game that will be played at Tropicana Field, thanks to the homefield advantage they fought so hard for during the regular season.
The Rays may have taken the long way home but they're very happy to be here.
"So many kids dream of being in this position, so let's be sure we honor that. Don't take it for granted. Play hard, and give it all you have. Because I don't think there's anything more exciting than that last ball game in a series." --Rays 1st baseman Carlos Peña
The Rays will turn to their ace, David Price who will go up against Cliff Lee for the Rangers, a rematch of game 1. In that game, the Rays actually had Lee in tough spots early, including a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the first inning but couldn't cash in. As for Price, he was not at his best that night but received no support from Rays hitters. Through the first 23 innings of the series, the Rays only mustered one run on 10 hits. Since then, however, they've plated 11 runs on 21 hits. The keys to victory for the Rays are pretty simple: a good night from Price and more of the offensive production seen in the last two games.
The cowbell-ringing crowd will show up (tarps have been removed from the top rows in the upper deck, making an additional 5,000 seats available); if the Rays we saw in Arlington over the weekend do likewise, they should advance to the ALCS.
GAME 5 TRIVIA, RAYS EDITION
The Rays are attempting to become...
- the 6th team in major league history to lose the first two home games of a postseason series at home and come back and win the series.
- the 5th team in ALDS history to overcome a two game deficit and advance (the four previous times it happened, all in the AL, that team went on to win game 5 and advance: '95 Mariners vs New York, '99 Red Sox vs Cleveland, '01 Yankees vs Oakland and '03 Red Sox vs Oakland).