Tampa Bay reaches playoffs with tiebreaker win over Texas
The Rays earned a 5-2 victory over the Rangers and face Cleveland in the AL wild-card game for the right to play Boston in the division series.
The Associated Press
ARLINGTON, Texas — David Price, Evan Longoria and the Tampa Bay Rays are going to the playoffs again, getting there with a victory in their final regular-season game for the second time in three years.
They needed an extra game this time.
Price threw his fourth complete game of the season, Longoria hit a two-run homer and the Rays beat the Texas Rangers 5-2 in the AL tiebreaker Monday night, the 163rd game for both teams.
As soon as Price got the final out, he locked eyes with Longoria and they went straight to each other to start the celebration.
“He just told me that he had a dream about it,” Longoria said.
Luckily for manager Joe Maddon and the Rays, they weren’t done in by another blown call in Texas — though this one did cost them at least one run.
The Rays face another must-win situation Wednesday night at Cleveland in the AL wild-card game — the winner faces Boston in the division series. In the playoffs for the fourth time in six years, Tampa Bay won four of six from the Indians during the regular season.
Price (10-8), the reigning AL Cy Young winner, had a 10.26 ERA in four previous starts at Rangers Ballpark. He was superb in this one, striking out four and walking one. He picked off two runners while allowing seven hits and throwing 81 of 118 pitches for strikes.
“When you can get outs without throwing pitches that’s always huge,” Price said. “If I don’t get those two outs on the pickoff moves, I have to get the next guys out. It forces me to throw at least 10 more pitches.”
The 28-year-old lefty reached 10 wins for the fifth straight season. He missed more than six weeks because of a triceps strain but is 9-4 in 13 starts since returning July 2 from his first career stint on the disabled list.
Longoria had three hits, continuing his stellar play in the last game of regular seasons. He is hitting .579 (11 for 19) in those finales with seven homers and 10 runs batted in, according to STATS.
Texas had won seven in a row, needing every one of those wins just to force the majors’ first wild-card tiebreaker since 2007.
Even with the return of All-Star slugger Nelson Cruz from his 50-game drug suspension, the Rangers missed a chance to get to the playoffs for the fourth year in a row.
“I’m disappointed. We didn’t get it done,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “I’ve got no excuse for that.”
Cruz, who had 27 homers and 76 RBI in 108 games before his suspension, was 0 for 4 with a strikeout while hitting sixth as the designated hitter. His ground out to shortstop ended the game.
The Rays had runners at first and second with two outs in the seventh when Delmon Young, who put the Rays ahead to stay with a sacrifice fly in the first, hit a soft fly ball.
Center fielder Leonys Martin made a running, diving play to catch the ball. Replays showed clearly that the ball bounced into Martin’s glove. But third-base umpire Ron Kulpa, looking at the play from the side, ruled it an inning-ending catch.
Young rounded first base signaling safe with his arms.
“Thankfully it didn’t come back to bite us,” Longoria said.
When the Rays played at Texas on April 8, the fourth game of the season for both teams, their 5-4 loss ended when plate umpire Marty Foster called a third strike against Ben Zobrist on a pitch low and outside. The ump later admitted the 2-2 curveball wasn’t a strike and he wouldn’t call that pitch a strike if he could do it again. The Texas win and closer Joe Nathan’s 300th career save stood.
Maddon said after that game that such calls like Monday’s “can’t be made in a Major League Baseball game.”
MLB intends to use expanded video review next year.