And so, it all comes down to this. After 162 games proved to be insufficient to settle the playoff picture, the Rays and Rangers find themselves in a one game, winner take all duel for the right to face the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday. Starting for Tampa, none other than staff ace David Price, who is slated to go against Martin Perez in a game where all hands may be on deck.
On paper, it would seem as though the Rays should have a decided advantage. Price, while he hasn’t been the same pitcher he was over the past couple of seasons, has still displayed flashes of the ability that made him one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past three years. Perez, meanwhile, is a 22 year old youngster with 25 starts to his name. It would seem as though the Rays would have the advantage in the pitching matchup.
Yet, Price has not exactly pitched well against the Rangers in his career. In eight starts against the Rangers, Price has gone 1-4 with a 5.98 ERA. In 43.2 innings, he has allowed 46 hits and 19 walks for a 1.489 WHiP. That mark, as well as his ERA, are the highest against any opponent that Price has faced more than twice. Quite simply, that type of performance is not going to be good enough.
Just over a month ago, when the Rays were leading the American League East, it was difficult to imagine that the Rays would be fighting for their playoff lives later on today. After the Rangers went through their slump to fall to the precipice of being out of contention, it seemed even less likely. Yet, that is exactly where the Rays find themselves, in a one game playoff with a bullpen that has been shaky at best over the past few days and a lineup that had been mired in a collective slump.
However, even with all of those possible problems, the Rays still have David Price on the mound. Even though he has struggled at times this season, there may not be anyone else that is better suited to handle this challenge.