Tampa Bay Rays
There has only been one team in the history of baseball to come back from down 2-0 at home in a five game series to win it, but the Tampa Bay Rays have the opportunity to join the Boston Red Sox in that same sentence on Tuesday night when they take on the Texas Rangers in Game 5 at Tropicana Field.
This won't be the first do or die MLB postseason betting affair in the history of Tropicana Field, as the Rays won Game 7 against the Boston Red Sox here in the ALCS of 2008. Tampa Bay woke up and played ten runs in a span of just seven innings between the end of Game 3 and the beginning of Game 4 in Arlington on Saturday and Sunday to create this situation, and now it has exactly what it fought for all season long: the right to play an all or nothing game in front of their own fans at the Trop.
There was no stopping LHP Cliff Lee in Game 1 when he took on the Rays. The southpaw was absolutely phenomenal, particularly after working out of jams early on in the game. Lee ended up allowing just five hits and a single run on a solo homer in his final inning of work, striking out ten without walking a batter. With the bullpen taxed over the weekend, Lee might need to ultimately go the distance or pretty darn near it to be able to pitch his team into the second round. The option was there to let him throw on three days of rest on Sunday, but instead, manager Ron Washington elected to give him five days, one more than usual, to prepare for the biggest game of the season and arguably in the history of this franchise.
We've already mentioned that infamous Game 7 against the Sox in 2008... What we didn't mention is that that was the situation in which the world was introduced to a man named LHP David Price. The man who might be the Cy Young Award winner this year didn't pitch like a hero in Game 1 of this series, though he fought admirably throughout. Price allowed two solo homers and allowed a total of nine hits and five runs, four of which were earned, in 6.2 innings of work. He struck out eight, but has still never beaten the Rangers in his career. The ball will clearly be in Price's hands for the majority, if not the duration of this game, as there really isn't going to be a pitcher that manager Joe Maddon can turn to that he has more confidence in this situation than his southpaw, just as was the situation when he came into the game in the bottom of the ninth with bases loaded and two outs and recorded the biggest strikeout of his life to help pitch Tampa Bay to the World Series two years ago.
Geez, what a tough call this is! The Rays have it all going on right now, but they just don't feel like a team that can win this series when push really comes to shove. Washington knew what he was doing, letting Lee rest for this game, and though it means that he will probably not be able to use him until Game 3 of the ALCS, that would be just fine. He won't lose to the Rays in Game 5, which will give the Rangers their first postseason series win in team history.
Selection: Texas Rangers +115