Rays Head Back to Top After 5-2 Win Over Rangers

The Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Texas – David Price and the Tampa Bay Rays worked hard all season to earn home-field advantage in the AL playoffs.

This time, they need to make use of it if they want to keep playing.

Tampa Bay forced a deciding Game 5 in the division series against the Texas Rangers with a 5-2 victory Sunday. The Rays avoided elimination twice on the road after losing the first two at Tropicana Field, setting up the chance for an improbable comeback.

“I feel a little better than 50-50 going home at this point,” said Evan Longoria, who homered and had two doubles in Game 4. “We’ve really battled to get back to even.”

Price, the Rays’ 19-game winner, takes the mound Tuesday night against Rangers ace Cliff Lee in a rematch of the Game 1 starters.

Lee equaled a postseason best with 10 strikeouts in a 5-1 victory over Price, who relishes the second chance after giving up five runs and nine hits in 6 2-3 innings last week.

“They got me back on the mound on Tuesday, so I appreciate it,” Price said. “It stung a little bit. I definitely wanted to give us a better chance to win.”

The winner hosts the wild-card Yankees in Game 1 of the AL championship series Friday night. New York swept Minnesota in three games, wrapping up that series with a 6-1 win Saturday night.

Tampa Bay is trying to join the 2001 Yankees as the only teams to win a best-of-five playoff after losing the first two games at home. New York did it against the Oakland Athletics.

The Rays won the AL East on the final day of the regular season and finished with the best record in the league, a distinction that was important to manager Joe Maddon as he looked toward the playoffs.

“You get the extra game at home. I have been talking about it all along,” he said. “Hopefully, it will bear out.”

This is the first time a division series has been pushed to Game 5 since the Los Angeles Angels beat the Yankees in 2005.

Texas is still the only current major league franchise that has never won a postseason series. The Rangers are 0-6 in home playoff games.

“The bottom line is to win one more game and move on,” outfielder David Murphy said. “Cliff is going for us and we have to like our chances.”

When the Rangers acquired Lee from Seattle on July 9, it was for situations just like this. He went 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five postseason starts for Philadelphia last season and won two World Series games against the champion Yankees.

Lee is pitching now to get the Rangers another postseason meeting with New York, the only team they had ever faced in the playoffs until this year.

“This is exactly where I would want to be,” Lee said. “It’s two teams that are really good teams, and it’s coming down to the wire.”

While Lee is facing the same team, the Rays had an offensive resurgence over the weekend and were feeling pretty good before leaving Rangers Ballpark.

In the visitors’ clubhouse after Sunday’s game, several Tampa Bay players sang “Deep In the Heart of Texas” with “Yee-haw!” added for emphasis.

Longoria, still limping because of the left quadriceps strain that forced him to miss the last 10 regular-season games, snapped out of an 0-for-12 postseason slump Sunday. Carlos Pena scored twice after a pair of extra-base hits of his own.

Longoria and Pena had consecutive doubles to start the fourth against Tommy Hunter. Longoria added a two-run homer an inning later for a 5-0 lead.

“I kind of felt like Kirk Gibson going around the bases,” he said.

The homer was Longoria’s first this postseason after he set a major league rookie record with six when the Rays went to the World Series two years ago.

“He is under strict managerial orders to not run hard, although he can’t anyway,” Maddon said. “Of course, the home run over the wall is a nice play.”

Tampa Bay had only one run and eight hits during the first two games of the series. The Rays went 16 innings without scoring and were within five outs of elimination in Game 3.

Pena’s .196 batting average in the regular season was the lowest among major league qualifiers, and his future in Tampa Bay is uncertain because he is a potential free agent.

But for now, Pena is doing his part to make sure the Rays keep playing. He even had an unconventional cycle in a span of four at-bats.

After an RBI single and a homer in the final two innings Saturday, Pena tripled in his first at-bat and scored the first run of Game 4 before the RBI double his next time up.

“I think all of us appreciate where we’re at,” Pena said. “It was extremely important for this team to turn the page.”

Hunter struck out seven but allowed four extra-base hits in four innings.

Rookie right-hander Wade Davis pitched into the sixth for the Rays, getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth when he struck out Vladimir Guerrero. Rafael Soriano worked a perfect ninth for the save.

Nelson Cruz led off the sixth with his third homer in the series and Davis, who struck out seven and walked three, was done when Ian Kinsler followed with a single.

“It’s been an unusual series so far,” Kinsler said. “We won two games at their place and they won two games at ours. That’s the way it stands and we hope it doesn’t change.”