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AL Wild Card Tiebreaker Preview: Tampa Bay Rays vs. Texas Rangers

Tomas Laverty

Tomas Laverty, frequent contributor to the MLB section, runs a Detroit web design company called Detroit Spaces.
AL Wildcard Tiebreaker Preview - Tampa Bay Rays vs. Texas Rangers
Apr 10, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Kelly Johnson (2) tags out Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre (29) at home plate in the bottom of the 8th inning as home plate umpire Tim Welke (3) watches at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The Rays beat the Rangers 2-0. Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, the Texas Rangers won their seventh straight game to bump themselves into a tie with the Tampa Bay Rays, successfully forcing a tiebreaker for the second Wild Card in the American League.

Having won four of seven contests with the Rays this season, the Rangers enter tonight’s tiebreaker fresh off a necessary win-streak, and will receive home-field advantage as a result of taking the season series. Tampa Bay on the other hand has won eight of it’s last ten, and appears to also be riding high at the right time.

David Price (9-8, 3.39 ERA) vs. Martin Perez (10-5, 3.55 ERA)

Price didn’t get a chance to face Texas this season, which could play in his favor, as it’s commonly said in baseball, “advantage pitcher” when it comes to unfamiliarity. This isn’t to suggest the Rangers have never seen Price’s stuff, but having not seen it in a year could help the Rays. Price will need the help, because in his career against the Rangers, he’s put up an ERA of 5.98 and a record of 1-4. It’s also worth noting Price has a 10.26 ERA in Arlington.

For the rookie Perez, he’ll have the same advantage of facing a team without any knowledge of his approach, as he didn’t face the Rays during any of his 19 starts in the 2013 season. Perez last faced the Rangers on September 9th of 2012 when he went five innings giving up two runs on seven hits. Righties Matt Garza and Alexi Ogando will be available for manager Ron Washington should Perez not hold up.

Running Game

As laid out by Cash Kruth of MLB.com, one of the more intriguing aspects of the tiebreaker game will be how effectively the Rays manage Texas on the basepaths. The Rangers ranked second on the Majors with a total of 148 stolen bases —  a number that doesn’t pair well with Tampa Bay’s rate of throwing out basestealers (21 percent).

Return of Nelson Cruz?

No statement has been made regarding whether or not Nelson Cruz will be in Monday’s lineup, but the recently suspended outfielder will be activated by the team prior to the game.

Home-field Advantage

A topic often brushed aside by statisticians and traditionalists, home-field advantage for the Rangers may play a role given the intensity of Rangers faithful. Rangers Ballpark in Arlington averaged 38,692 fans per game in 2013, at a capacity of 78.7 percent. The park seats 49,115, and it’s logical to expect that number to be met. Couple this with the fact that the Rays aren’t used to playing in front of a lot of fans. Tampa Bay had the league’s worst ballpark attendance this year with only 18,645 attending per game. It will be a shock to the system for the Rays, who coincidentally have played their last six games on the road, and will be flying in from Toronto.

ALWC Tiebreaker – Tampa Bay vs. Texas – TBS – 8:07 PM Eastern