Rangers-Rays: GAME 5 Preview

History isn't on the Rangers' side.

But everything else is.

When the Texas Rangers face the Tampa Bay Rays tonight at 7:07 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, they'll do so knowing they've never won a playoff series and that no 5-game baseball series has ever been decided via five wins by the road team.

Past performance be damned, the current prospect is delicious. Once the ball is in play, the Rangers seemingly have some considerable edges.

Namely, Cliff Lee.

The lanky lefty has never lost a playoff game, going 5-0 with a 1.52 ERA in six post-season starts. He's never pitched less than seven innings, allows one walk per start and he's only surrendered one career homer (to Tampa's Ben Zobrist in Game 1).

That's as close to a sure thing as you'll get in sports. I picked the Rays in 5, but ...

Even more reassuring, Lee dominated the Rays five days ago. He threw strike one to 21 of 27 hitters, fanned 10 and walked none in Texas' 5-1 Game 1 victory. He will not - it's safe to say - be overwhelmed by the moment or intimidated by the opponent.

The Rays, meanwhile, struggle mightily against lefties, losing their last seven games against left-handed starting pitchers. The Rangers are a fastball-hitting team facing David Price, an elite fastball pitcher. Michael Young and Josh Hamilton, 1 of 14 over the lost weekend in Arlington against off-speed pitching, will see pitches to hit tonight.

If it's just another baseball game - merely No. 167 of the season - the Rangers should win.

If it escalates into a monumental event - the most important nine innings in the franchise's 39-year history, where the results will prompt another post-season depression or the elation of finally winning a series - sphincters will shrink and advantages will vanish.

If the moment isn't too big, the matchup is just right.

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