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Rays Punch Postseason Ticket After Defeating Rangers


The Tampa Bay Rays would have loved to clinch their American League wild card playoff berth over the weekend, but after failing to secure their spot, they were forced into a play-in game with the Texas Rangers on Monday. Their already grueling 162-game regular season schedule may have been extended to a 163rd contest, but after topping the Rangers 5-2 and officially punching their ticket to the postseason, the Rays certainly aren’t complaining.

“I’m happy that we don’t have to play them anymore,” Rays third baseman Evan Longoria said of the Rangers, according to ESPN.com. “It’s fitting we had to go down this road. It feels really good to be able to leave here celebrating instead of with our heads down.”

The celebration was made possible by clutch performances from Tampa’s stars, as staff ace David Price threw a complete game and Longoria came up with a huge two-run homer in the third inning, which vaulted Tampa to a 3-0 lead. The Rays almost always expect timely hitting from their biggest bat on the biggest stages, as Longoria has now homered in each of the past three regular season finales, two of which helped his team clinch a playoff berth.

“I wish I could explain it,” Longoria said of his play in season finales. “I wish I could bottle it up and take it through 161 games and not have it be on the last day.”

Of course, the Rays hope he can save some of his heroics for the next game, which also happens to be another do-or-die, as Tampa Bay takes on the Cleveland Indians in the wild card round on Wednesday. They wont have the rubber arm of Price to lean on, so they’ll need all the production they can get out of the lineup against Cleveland’s Danny Salazar (2-3, 3.12 ERA).

However, Tampa will still send out another reliable hurler in two-year man Alex Cobb (11-3, 2.76 ERA). Cobb has been stellar all season long, but he’s looked especially nasty to opposing hitters lately, allowing just three earned runs in his past 25-plus innings of work.

Though they will be on the road, the Ray should feel comfortable against the Indians, whom they’ve beaten four out of six times this season. The Rays are also making their fourth playoff appearance in the past six years and that experience – good and bad – should help propel them into the ALDS, where the Boston Red Sox await.

Look for Tampa Bay to cover -1.5 on the road and see its 2013 postseason continue.

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