George Christian Pappas, ESPN RadioST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rays were able to surge into the playoffs despite the fact that their ace, David Price, had not picked up a victory since the end of August.
They'll be leaning on the southpaw tonight and hoping that history doesn't repeat itself when he takes the mound against the Rangers in Game 3 of the American League Division Series. Price has never beaten Texas. He failed to better the Rangers in the regular season and was out-pitched by Cliff Lee en route to losing to the Rangers twice in last year's ALDS. Lineups:Texas5 Ian Kinsler 2B1 Elvis Andrus SS32 Josh Hamilton (L) LF10 Michael Young DH29 Adrian Beltre 3B25 Mike Napoli C17 Nelson Cruz RF18 Mitch Moreland (L) 1B23 Craig Gentry CF 48 Colby Lewis (RHP; 14-10, 4.90 regular season)Tampa Bay8 Desmond Jennings LF2 B.J. Upton CF3 Evan Longoria 3B20 Matt Joyce (L) RF22 Johnny Damon (L) DH18 Ben Zobrist (S) 2B11 Casey Kotchman (L) 1B28 John Jaso (L) C15 Reid Brignac (L) SS14 David Price (LHP; 12-13, 3.49 regular season) Notes:Farnsworth available: Reliever Kyle Farnsworth will be available to throw tonight. Farnsworth said that his arm "feels good" that he is "ready to go" against the Rangers. He threw in four of five games to cap the regular season, then felt tightness return to his forearm near the elbow. Farnsworth missed two weeks in September with right elbow tightness. He wrapped up the regular season with a team-high 25 saves in 31 opportunities.Price's struggles: The left-hander recorded his last win against the Blue Jays Aug. 28, throwing seven scoreless innings. Since then, Price is 0-2 in six appearances, putting his record below the .500 mark for the first time in his career. For what it's worth, he didn't have great run support (the Rays average 4 1/3 runs per game over those six appearances). He didn't have fabulous fielding behind him, and some of that was his own doing (see the loss to Toronto Sept. 23, when Price had two errors in the same inning). And in one instance, he didn't get out of the fourth inning after being struck in the chest by a line drive off the bat of the Red Sox' Mike Aviles. Rays hitters bailed out Price in the season finale against New York, rallying in dramatic fashion to overcome a seven-run deficit and clinch a spot in the playoffs. But he is long overdue for a true 'Price-esque' performance, and a better opportunity could not present itself than in the Rays' playoff home opener. "I think you are going to see the best of David Price today," Joe Maddon said. "He is a tremendous competitor. He is one of the guys that supplies the energy from within. He's a unique individual. His whole life he's been the best. And he goes through high school to college to professionally, and then what he did in 2008... I know it hasn't worked out well recently for him, but i will always support and back up this guy. And want him to pitch important games. He has all the makings, the trappings to be this incredibly clutch performer over the next 10 years."Tampa Bay sellout crowds: Tropicana Field is sold out for Game 3. So is Raymond James Stadium, which hosts the Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts for Monday Night Football. The Rays are hoping that it creates an intense environment for their playoff opener. "It is very raucous in this building when it gets to that point," Maddon said. "Our guys have normally responded to it very well ... It's loud. I'm telling you, because even [bench coach Dave Martinez] and I having a conversation is not easy. It's incredible to think that, but he is standing right next to me, and it is hard to hear him."This is the second time the Rays and Bucs have played before sellout crowds on the same day, and fans will hope for the same result. The first time was Oct. 19, 2008, when the Rays defeated the Red Sox in Game 7 of the ALCS. The Bucs beat the Seahawks earlier that day. Longoria joins exclusive company: Evan Longoria's three-run homer off Koji Uehara in the seventh inning of Game 2 was his eighth postseason blast. Longoria ranks fourth in MLB history in postseason home runs before the age of 26, and he can add to his total before he blows out the candles Friday. He trails Albert Pujols (10), Mickey Mantle (9) and Manny Ramirez (9) with eight homers.
Sir Charles with the slam