The Tampa Bay Rays attempt to become just the second team to win a a best-of-five American League Division Series after losing the first two games at home, as they try to advance to the ALCS this evening in a decisive Game 5 against the Texas Rangers at Tropicana Field.
The Rays will have their work cut out for them tonight, though, as they face left-hander Cliff Lee, who silenced Tampa’s bats in Game 1. Lee gave up a run and five hits in seven innings last Wednesday and struck out 10 in his team’s 5-1 triumph. Listen to Game 5 on 105.3 The Fan.
“This is why we got him, for this type of game,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “I certainly feel great about what’s about to happen when we get to Tampa. We couldn’t have a better guy on the mound.”
[photogallerylink id=31702 align=left] Lee, of course, was 4-0 in last year’s playoffs with a 1.56 ERA in five starts with the Phillies and his 1.52 overall ERA in his six postseason starts is fifth-lowest in major league history for a pitcher with at least five starts. Three of the four pitchers ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame. [pullquote quote="I certainly feel great about what's about to happen when we get to Tampa. We couldn't have a better guy on the mound" credit="Ron Washington on Cliff Lee"]
Sandy Koufax tops the short list with a 0.95 ERA, followed by Christy Mathewson (1.06), Eddie Plank (1.32) and “Wild” Bill Hallahan (1.36). After that come Lee and Mickey Lolich, with 1.52 ERAs.
“We’re in the playoffs,” Lee said. “It’s down to one game to decide whether we move on. This is exactly where I would want to be, in a situation like this. I had no control or choice on the matter, but to end up here and to end up in a 2-2 series, playing the last game — it is win or go home at this point. It is playoff baseball at its best.”
[photogallerylink id=32079 align=left] However, Lee will be facing a Rays lineup tonight that has all the momentum right now.
After managing just one run in dropping the first two games in St. Pete, Tampa Bay found its offense over the weekend in Arlington, as the Rays took both games from the Rangers to even the set and force the first deciding Division Series game since the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim beat the New York Yankees back in 2005.
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