By: Travis Thayer (@TheTravisThayer)
It’s been a grueling 162 game season, but four teams must win game 163 in order to keep their postseason chances alive. For the Reds and the Pirates, win and you go on to face fellow NL Central rival St. Louis – but it’s not that easy for the Rays and the Rangers. The winner of tonight’s game will be the second wild card, and will have to face the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday night to decide who goes on to play Boston in the ALDS. The one game elimination games may not be very popular among fans, but there is no doubt that there is much intrigue about the three games being played this week. After 162 games, it’s crazy to think that only nine innings stands between a team going home or moving on to the postseason. Tonight’s game between the Rays and the Rangers will set the tone for October, so sit back, relax, and enjoy one of the best times of the year.
Tampa Bay Rays (91-71) at Texas Rangers (91-71)
Probables: D. Price (9-8, 3.39 ERA) vs. M. Perez (10-5, 3.55 ERA)
The Rangers will send youngster Martin Perez to the mound tonight to face Rays ace David Price. The Rangers are without ace Yu Darvish after he pitched yesterday’s game to ensure the Rangers would stay tied in the wild card race. Perez may seem to have the upper hand on paper, but Price is a big game pitcher on a team that thrives when their backs are against the wall. Both teams have played great down the stretch (Rangers 7-0 in last 7, Rays 5-2 in last 7), which should make for a great game. It looks to be low-scoring, and very dramatic. The Rangers may be riding a seven game win streak and home-field advantage, but the Rays always seem to find a way to win these games. Regardless, it should be a good one Monday night in Arlington.
Winner plays at Cleveland Wednesday night.
Cincinnati Reds (90-72) at Pittsburgh Pirates (94-68)
Probables: J. Cueto (5-2, 2.82 ERA) vs. F. Liriano (16-8, 3.02 ERA)
The Reds/Pirates rivalry is officially back. Just ask all the hit batsmen from this year. There is no love lost between these two teams, and a one game battle will decide who wins the war of 2013. After 21 years of obscurity, the Pirates will finally host a playoff game, and they will send their ace F. Liriano to the mound. Liriano has posted good numbers versus the Reds this year, but the Pirates lost all four of his starts. Liriano was originally supposed to be opposed by Mat Latos, but after having an issue with his elbow Johnny Cueto will be sent to the hill. Cueto is 13-4 with a 2.37 ERA in his career versus Pittsburgh. It appears the Reds should have the advantage based on pitching, but Pittsburgh is riding a high after sweeping the Reds on the final weekend of the season. For the most part, the Reds and Pirates have played low-scoring games the entire season, and it would be shocking to see otherwise. The team that comes up with the most two-out hits with RISP will come out on top.