There were no lingering doubts about the teams that won the wild card in the National League, but things were very different in the AL. Cleveland extended its winning streak to 10 victories in a row and is now waiting for Texas and Tampa Bay to play the one-game playoffs this Tuesday. Whoever wins at Arlington Park will travel to Cleveland for another decisive game and the Indians are waiting.
At one point this season, Texas was leading the Western division and everyone thought that they won’t allow Oakland to come within striking distance. Analysts couldn’t be farther from the truth as the A’s closed the gap with blazing speed and then took the lead never to look back. While Oakland won the division with ease, the Rangers lost consecutive games and were on the verge of missing the playoffs.
Luckily, Texas rebounded in the final week of September by sweeping both the Astros and the Angels to clinch the second wildcard. Toronto gave them a helping hand by winning the series against Tampa, although the Rays pulled out a breathtaking victory in the final game. Now the two teams meet at Arlington Park in a game that will decide who gets another chance at a playoff spot and who watches baseball games from the stands this October.
The Rangers conceded an unacceptably high number of runs this month and their starting pitchers are largely responsible for the late-season meltdown. This time they have Martin Perez fit to play and he has a reputation of playing well under pressure, which makes him the obvious start for a critical game. If he keeps his earned run average at three per game and Texas’ hitting squad finally wakes up, they should have a fighting chance against the Rays.
Tampa proved to be a streaky team lately and alternated consecutive wins with winless streaks, pretty much like Texas. For some odd reason, the visitors are credited with the first chance by most bookmakers to prevail at Arlington Park, which should provide punters with the impetus to back the hosts. The visitors are not to be underestimated though, as they came back from behind and offset huge deficits in the past. Not having home pitch advantage in such an important game definitely hurts and this is one of the few intangibles that the Rangers have over their opponents.