After 162 games could not resolve the American League playoff chase, it came down to one more game. One more game – the same mantra that the Rays had been using on their push to the postseason. And in that game, the Rays found themselves in the position of being able to start perhaps their best pitcher in the second half in David Price.
The Rays offense, which had been dormant before their eruption in the first inning yesterday, came to life against Rangers starter Martin Perez. Although Desmond Jennings was thrown out trying to leg out what would have been a double if he was healthy, the Rays were still able to load the bases with one out. Delmon Young hit a sacrifice fly to put the Rays on the board, as they took an early 1-0 lead.
Tampa extended that lead in the top of the third. Jennings led off with a walk, and with two outs, Evan Longoria stepped to the plate. As the memory of Game 162 played in the thoughts of the Rays faithful, Longoria came through in the clutch once again, belting a two run home run to right center as the Rays silenced the crowd in Arlington.
The Rangers came back against Price in the bottom of the inning. With a runner on second and one out, Ian Kinsler lofted a soft bloop single over the outstretched glove of Ben Zobrist, falling in for an RBI single. However, even though the Rangers have eliminated the Rays in the past and have been a bad matchup for Price historically, none of that mattered tonight. Price simply would not let the Rangers get any closer, slamming the door and began to cruise through the lineup.
David DeJesus, seeking to make the postseason for the first time in his career, came through for the Rays in the sixth. With Longoria on third and two outs, DeJesus came in as a pinch hitter, and laced a double down the right field line to drive in another run. Tampa appeared as though they had the Rangers on the ropes, loading the bases against reliever Alexi Ogando, but he managed to retire Jose molina on a soft line drive to second to end the threat.
For a moment, it appeared as though that squandered opportunity would come back to haunt the Rays. Elvis Andrus singled with one out in the sixth, and scored on a double by Alex Rios. Price appeared to be laboring a bit, but got through the inning unscathed.
Controversy played an important part in the seventh. The Rays had runners on first and second with two out, bringing Young to the plate. On a 1-0 pitch, he hit a sinking line drive that center fielder Leonys Martin appeared to catch on a short hop, which would have scored at least another run. However, Young was called out on what was ruled to be a catch, ending the threat.
That appeared to motivate Price even more. He got through the seventh in order, and appeared as though he would be pulled for Joel Peralta to start the eighth. Yet, there Price was on the mound. Even after giving up a double to Kinsler with one out, he appeared to find another gear, and set the Rangers down as though he was willing the Rays to victory.
Sam Fuld sealed the victory in the top of the ninth. He led off with a single, and moved to second on a groundout. Fuld then stole third, and scored as the throw from Tanner Scheppers went wide of third, rolling to the outfield. Price got the final three outs, pitching a complete game to send the Rays to the postseason, and exorcize the demons of postseasons past in Arlington. Price gave up two runs on seven hits, walking one while striking out four. It may not have looked pretty in the box score, but Price mixed his pitches and generally got the Rangers to make weak contact throughout the game.
Longoria was 3-4, finishing a triple short of the cycle, with two runs, two RBIs and a walk in the victory.