Tonight will mark baseball history. For the first time ever, there will be a one-game showdown to determine who faces the Cleveland Indians in another win-or-go-home match. Our Texas Rangers, led by 22-year old Martin Perez, will host Cy Young Award winner David Price and the Tampa Bay Rays.
Going into tonight, Texas has won an impressive 7 games in a row. However, it was not all that long ago the Rangers were losing in bunches, surrendering a grip on the AL West title to the Oakland Athletics. The Rays, on the other hand, won only the final game of three against divisional foe the Toronto Blue Jays, thus forcing tonight’s game. It would appear that Texas has the momentum, but anything could happen in such a high-pressured situation, which brings us to the next point –
The Rangers employed ace Yu Darvish yesterday against a stacked Angels lineup, while the Rays were able to preserve their top option. Thus, Martin Perez will make the biggest start of his young life. While each player’s journey to the MLB was very different – Price the #1 overall pick, Perez undrafted – they’ll seem tonight to be the younger/older version of one another. Price towers six-inches over Perez, and his stuff is accordingly more powerful. However, the youngster has a knack for locating his fastball. Both pitchers also feature solid change-ups and movement pitches that are consistently deceptive.
Alas, the Rangers do have the upper-hand in another aspect of the pitching game: the bullpen – in particularly, the closers.
The Rays have struggled all season to find their go-to late in the game, as Fernando Rodney has not been able to replicate the success of years’ past. Meanwhile, the Rangers struck gold signing potential future Hall of Famer Joe Nathan, as the 38-year old has been lights out all year.
Offensively, the Rangers match-up pretty evenly with the Rays (talent-wise), though the Texas lineup is packed with more power hitters. Such is especially true given that Nelson Cruz looks to be back in action tonight following his 50-game suspension. It’s just at the right time, too, as the veteran Cruz is a lifetime 9 for 21 against Price, including three homers. Price doesn’t make many mistakes, so guys like Ian Kinsler and Adrian Beltre will have to worry about putting the ball in play before swinging big.
Tonight’s game will really boil down to the pitching, as any advantage the Texas Rangers might have is severely suppressed by the powerful David Price. However, if Martin Perez could hold his own for just so long, the Rangers have other young arms which can help carry the game (Alexi Ogando, Tanner Scheppers). Tonight should keep fans watching into the wee hours, waiting for that one-hit which will crack things open.
Comment below with your thoughts on tonight!