Rays vs. Rangers: David Price and 5 Keys for the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 3
Unfortunately, the Rangers have knocked around Price pretty well, including twice last year in the postseason. Price is 0-3 with a 5.67 ERA against Texas in six career regular-season starts.
He has the stuff and makeup to pitch a big game, but has a tough task against the AL's top offense.
The Rangers are also 3-0 at Tropicana Field during the postseason and have already proven they can beat Price there. Game 3 would be the perfect time for Price to have that breakout playoff performance that nobody doubts he has in him.
Here are five more keys for the Rays in Game 3.
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Damon has had the most success of all the Rays hitters off Rangers Game 3 starter Colby Lewis. He is 4-for-13 with three walks off Lewis, including a double, triple and three RBI.
Left-handed hitters are batting .274 against Lewis in 2011, compared to .204 by right-handed ones. That seems to add up to a very good matchup for Damon and the Rays.
The team could certainly use some punch from the left side to go along with the damage B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria have been doing from the right.
Neutralizing Elvis Andrus
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Andrus was an absolute pest against the Rays last year in the ALDS. Specifically, against David Price in Game 1 where his heady and aggressive play led the Rangers to a Game 1 victory.
Andrus owns a .529 OBP versus Price in 16 plate appearances.
If he gets on base, he could be a distraction to Price, and he can ill afford to make a mistake to the middle of the Rangers lineup. The last thing the Rays want to see is Andrus sparking the offense and helping manufacture runs.
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Unbeknownst to most, Kyle Farnsworth has had a flair up in his achy elbow. Manager Joe Maddon said that he could be available for Game 3, but that, of course, is no guarantee.
Joel Peralta did an admirable job filling in for Farnsworth down the stretch, but if he is the ninth-inning option Monday night, then somebody else will need to help bridge the gap.
Brandon Gomes has been very reliable this postseason, and Wade Davis remains an intriguing late-game option.
Still, as surprisingly good as the Rays bullpen was this year, you kind of get the feeling that the wheels could fall off at any time.
With Price unlikely to go the distance, the Rays are going to need some outs late against a tough lineup.
Defense, Defense, Defense
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Nothing personified the Rays season like the clutch triple play they turned against the New York Yankees in Game 161.
Perhaps more than any other team in the postseason, Tampa Bay relies on defense to win ball games.
After some sloppy play in Game 2, the Rays proved that they can ill afford to make mistakes, as the Rangers have shown the ability to capitalize.
If Price has a good start, and the Rays do what they do in the field by making all the plays behind him, they stand a great chance of winning Game 3.
Keeping the Crowd in the Game
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Monday night is a huge night in the Tampa Bay area for sports.
With the Rays hosting Game 3 of the ALDS and the Buccaneers playing on Monday Night Football against the Indianapolis Colts, the national limelight will be on Tampa Bay.
Both games will be on national television, and both games are sold out.
Fans will be pumped up for what might be the biggest night ever for sports in the Tampa Bay area.
The Rays are still riding the wave of their dramatic and improbable postseason berth, and pride in the team is at its peak. If the Rays get off to a good start and score a couple of runs early, the momentum from a joyous crowd could carry the team through the game.
The Rays feed off the energy from their fans, and this will undoubtedly be the biggest and most pro-Rays crowd of the season.
The Rays don't want people checking their cell phones for the Bucs score or leaving to catch the game at Ferg's.
All it will take is a good start by the Rays, and the atmosphere at Tropicana Field could be absolutely electric Monday night.