So … we didn’t get a three-way tie for the American League Wild Card spots. Instead Cleveland is in the postseason thanks to finishing the season on a 10-game winning streak. It means Texas and Tampa will square off tonight in Arlington (8:07 p.m., TBS) for the right to play the Indians on Wednesday. If you’re scoring at home it ensures three straight days of one-off elimination baseball, with the Reds and Pirates scheduled to play Tuesday night in the National League Wild Card game.
It’s fitting Texas and Tampa are playing in a Game 163 tiebreaker tonight. Each team, at various points in the second half, looked to be a postseason lock only to falter. Texas was tied with Oakland in the AL West as late as September 3, only to fade. Tampa was tied with the Red Sox in the East on Aug. 24 but went on to lose 11 out of 14 to put their postseason hopes in jeopardy.
Each team did enough in the final week while Baltimore, Kansas City and New York were unable to mount enough pressure on them. Even so, Tampa still lost 2-out-of-3 vs. Toronto over the weekend to give Texas a lifeline back into the do-or-die game tonight.
It’ll be a matchup of southpaws with Tampa throwing reigning Cy Young winner David Price, while Texas counters with Martin Perez. Price has a lifetime ERA over 10 at the Ballpark in Arlington.
Texas will have slugger Nelson Cruz back in the lineup batting sixth with his 50-game Biogenesis suspension is over. (Can’t imagine there will be much to say or write should Cruz come up with an important hit tonight.)
If recent Game 163 history is any indication, this should be a good one. The last three tiebreaker games have gone right down to the wire. In 2007 the Rockies edged the Padres 9-8 in 13 innings and went on to play in the World Series. The next season the White Sox knocked off the Twins 1-0 on the back of eight scoreless innings from John Danks. The Twins made up for it the next season, beating the Tigers 7-6 in a 14-inning, four and a half hour marathon at the Metrodome.