Rays vs Rangers in Game 163

The Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers played in a regular season game on Monday Night at the Ballpark in Arlington. Funny, it didn’t seem like a regular season game. There were six umpires, which did not prevent them from screwing the rays out of at least one run in the seventh inning when Delmon Young‘s sinking line drive with two outs and two on was trapped in center field by Leonys Martin, but was ruled a catch. There were no empty seats in the park with everyone cheering or jeering on nearly every pitch and waving white towels. No, this was a playoff game.

The Rays came into this game in a do-or-die situation having been eliminated by the Rangers in two postseasons in the previous three years. Fortunately for them this one game playoff was at the rangers home field because in those two prior series, the Rays were 0-4 at home vs Texas. They jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a sac fly from Young and in the third, Evan Longoria made it 3-0 with a two-run shot over the center field wall. Texas plated a run in the bottom of the inning on a run scoring double.

The two traded runs for the rest of the way, although the blown call in the seventh should have extended the Rays lead. But in the top of the ninth, Sam Fuld was on second with one out when he took off while the Rangers pitcher stared in for the signals. By the time he realized what was happening Fuld was almost to third. He quickly threw over but it sailed wide and Fuld then scored on the error to make it 5-2 going into the bottom of the ninth.

There is nothing like the bottom of the ninth in an elimination game. Six months. 162 games. And it all comes down to three outs or three runs, whichever comes first. This is white-knuckle time. The Rays decided to let their ace, David Price go out for the ninth to face the meat of the Rangers order. Adrian Beltre hit a drive to deep left to lead off the inning. The ball sailed high and far but was caught up against the wall for the first out. A. J. Pierzynski, a man with some huge post-season hits in the pat, then grounded out to second. Two down for Nelson Cruz, the man coming back off a 50 game suspension just in time for this.

How fitting for the Rays that the guy who had a chance to catch the Texas franchise’s first World Series championship in 2011 but decided not to challenge the wall in St. Louis, would make the final out. Cruz grounded to Yunel Escobar who fired to first to end it! The Rays are going to Ohio Wednesday to face the Cleveland Indians in another do-or-die game.

The Rays would dearly love to win the game on Wednesday and extend this road trip on to New England to face the Boston Red Sox on Friday and Saturday. If they do, since their last home game was won on a ninth inning walk-off against the Baltimore Orioles a week ago, they will have been to New York, Toronto, Texas, Cleveland and Boston. If they beat the Indians on Wednesday they will run their record to 6-2 on the trip with every game being a must-win.

But even if the Indians win, the Rays have to feel good about knocking out Texas this year. Payback feels good.

Jim Folsom is a regualr contributor for http://www.bettingsports.com