ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers finished the season with seven straight wins, all at home, to extend their season. If they want to play into October, they'll need to make it eight straight with a win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday. Texas won the season series after splitting a four-game set last week. Let's take a look at three reasons the Rangers win and three reasons their season ends tonight.
3 REASONS RANGERS WIN:
1: Momentum. This team has a bunch of that right now, and it's not as if they have to worry about travel or anything else. They can treat this like a continuation of the week. It's been a really good week. They are getting clutch hits. The starting pitching has been solid, and the bullpen has been lights out. The Rangers are playing confident baseball. No reason to think it won't continue.
2: Nelson Cruz. No other playoff team welcomes the kind of bat the Rangers do. Cruz, whose 50-game suspension ended after Sunday's final pitch, is the kind of streaky player who can carry an offense. He hasn't played in a big league game since early August, but that might not matter. He's a force to be reckoned with and he'll be in there for Game 163. He said Sunday that he's excited to have a chance to help the team he left because of the suspension early last month.
3: David Price. Seems strange to put him in there, but take a look at his numbers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in his career. They are ugly. He's got a 10.26 ERA in his career in Arlington, though he hasn't pitched in Texas since August 2012. His postseason numbers against Texas aren't great, either. He's 0-3 with a 4.66 ERA in three American League Division Series starts in 2010 and 2011. If the Rangers hit him like they have in the past, it's a recipe for moving on to Cleveland on Wednesday.
3 REASONS RANGERS LOSE:
1: Price. No, that's not a typo. The reality is that, while Price hasn't been the same pitcher in 2013 that he was in 2012, he's still a Cy Young Award winner. He'd like nothing better than to finally beat the Rangers in a game that matters, and he has that opportunity. If the Price of last season shows up, it could be a long night for the Rangers.
2: Tired bullpen. The Rangers' relief corps has been tremendous this week. They've also been worked hard. There was no choice, of course. Any loss would have meant the end of Texas' season. But Joe Nathan and Tanner Scheppers have pitched in each of the past four games. Do they have a fifth straight game in them? Manager Ron Washington needs innings from his starter and some help from other arms in his bullpen.
3: Martin Perez. He's got 10 wins and hasn't looked like a rookie out on the mound of late. He also seemed very calm answering questions from the media in the clubhouse after Sunday's game. But what if he squints in the bright lights? That could change everything. Perez is a big X-factor in this game. That should be interesting to watch.