The past two times the Tampa Bay Rays went to the postseason they were knocked out by the Texas Rangers.
So on paper when the Rays and Rangers met Monday night for the tiebreaker game to earn the second Wildcard spot and a trip to the postseason it felt like deja vu all over again.
The Rays had dropped two of three games against the Toronto Blue Jays to slip from first place in the Wildcard standings to tied for the second spot with the Rangers. The Rangers on the other hand had won 10 straight games and were hosting the pivotal 163rd game of the season.
The Rangers held a four games to three edge over the Rays during their regular season meetings leading to the Rangers having home field advantage for the regular season tiebreaker.
Momentum and home field advantage were clearly in favor of the Rangers, on paper.
On paper the pitching match up also favored the Rangers as David Price, the defending American League Cy Young Award winner, took the mound for the Rays.
Despite being the defending Cy Young Award winner Price had only defeated the Rangers once in his career and in previous meetings the Rangers and little difficulty scoring runs off of him.
Before the game there were many who looked at Price’s past performance against the Rangers and said that the Rays were foolish to put him on the mound in a win or go home type scenario with the whole season on the line.
But Rays Manager Joe Maddon is not one of those people who does what conventional wisdom says and he put his ace on the mound despite Price only having one victory in his career against the Rangers.
Thankfully for Rays fans though Monday night was not like the previous two meetings as the Rays defeated the Rangers in Arlington to return to the postseason for the fourth time in the last six years.
As for David Price, the guy who the Rangers had managed to dominate the past few years, he pitched a complete game and only gave up two runs.
I guess one could say he balled up that piece of paper that said he couldn’t win against the Rangers in big games.
The Rays face the Cleveland Indians tonight in a win or go home Wildcard game with the winner facing the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series.
Alex Cobb who finished the season with an 11-3 mark and a 2.76 ERA in 22 starts will take the mound for the Rays.
On paper the teams are pretty evenly matched.
And once again the Rays will be living out of their suitcases as they face yet another game on the road.
Of course, the Rays seem to excel in the face of adversity and hostile crowds so I will place my money on the Rays winning the game.
While there is still a lot of October baseball to be played I would not be the least bit surprised if the Rays make it all the way to the World Series.
Don’t tell me what the odds are of that happening on paper are.
After all, the Rays have shown time and time again that just because it is the conventional wisdom, it is not the way the Rays play.
The Rays are a different team with a quirky manager that gets the most out of his players in every situation and once again they are in the playoffs.
Regardless of what happens in the game tonight the Rays will be remembered as a playoff contender once more.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a game to watch.
Copyright 2013 R. Anderson