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MLB Playoffs: ALDS Preview - Texas Rangers Vs. Tampa Bay Rays

TEXAS RANGERS: AL WEST CHAMPIONS (90-72)  AT TAMPA BAY RAYS: AL EAST CHAMPIONS (96-66)

The Tampa Bay Rays are back in the postseason for the second time in team history and will start their run against the Texas Rangers on Wednesday in an American League Division Series matchup at Tropicana Field.

Battling the New York Yankees for the best record in baseball for most of the season, the Rays needed all 162 games to secure their second American League East title and did so on the season's final day with an extra-inning win in Kansas City.

The Rays are led by David Price, who emerged as one of the best left-handers in baseball this year, while third baseman Evan Longoria paced an offense that is very unlike its American League contemporaries.

Texas, meanwhile, is back in the playoffs for the first time in 11 years after capturing its first American League West crown since 1999. It is only the fourth time that the Rangers are in the playoffs, but this will be their first meeting against a team other than the New York Yankees.

The Rangers spent the majority of the year atop their division, but became a serious threat for a World Series title when they acquired lefty Cliff Lee just before the All-Star break.

However, things turned sour for the Rangers in September when AL MVP candidate Josh Hamilton went down with fractured ribs. He missed most of the final month before returning for the final weekend, but it will bear watching whether or not he is 100-percent.

Tampa Bay won four of its six regular season meetings with the Rangers this year, but both losses came in Arlington, where the Rays have won just twice in their last nine visits.

Photographs by cstreet.us, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.