ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — After wasting two chances to close out Tampa Bay at home, the Texas Rangers can take solace in one thing: Cliff Lee gets the ball in Game 5.
Still trying to win a playoff series for the first time, Texas is going on the road again. The Rangers lost 5-2 to the Rays in Game 4 on Sunday after coming within five outs of wrapping up the best-of-five division series a day earlier.
“It’s down to one game,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “We’ve got Cliff going and we certainly feel good about it. We would have liked to have come home and won one game, but we didn’t.”
Lee will face 19-game winner David Price in the deciding game Tuesday night, a rematch of Game 1 starters. The winner opens the AL championship series at home against the New York Yankees on Friday night.
After riding solid pitching from Lee and C.J. Wilson to win the first two games at Tropicana Field, Texas must regain its form to avoid becoming the sixth team to lose a five-game playoff series after jumping ahead 2-0.
There’s nobody the Rangers would rather have on the mound than Lee, who went 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in the 2009 postseason with Philadelphia. The 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner stifled the Rays in Game 1, giving up one run in seven innings.
Rangers players downplayed the pressure of a Game 5 and the historical significance should they lose Tuesday night.
The 2001 Yankees are the lone team to fall behind 2-0 at home and advance to the LCS. Texas is the only current major league franchise that’s never won a playoff series.
“We understand if we lose that it will be over,” second baseman Ian Kinsler said. “But it’s the same game. Bases don’t eject out of the ground and guys don’t throw 150 mph. The game is just a little bit more intense.”
Texas starter Tommy Hunter, who was 7-0 at home during the regular season, gave up three runs in four innings. In the first three games, Rangers starters yielded just one earned run in 18 1-3 innings.
With a sellout crowd of 49,218 hoping Texas could shrug off a loss in Game 3 on Saturday, the suddenly surging Rays pounced on Hunter when Carlos Pena tripled with one out in the second.
Kinsler, who hit a go-ahead homer in the seventh on Saturday that had the Rangers on the cusp of advancing, misplayed a popup in shallow right that allowed Pena to score.
Hunter and reliever Derek Holland couldn’t cool off the bats of Pena, Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton. The trio, which led the Rays to the 2008 World Series, combined to go 7 for 12 on Sunday with four RBIs.
“They’re a good team at taking pitches and not missing what they want,” Washington said. “So when you put something good up there, they hit it.”
The Rangers’ offense, which knocked out Price and James Shields in their two series wins, wasn’t able to dig out of a 5-0 hole.
Texas scored two runs in the sixth off rookie Wade Davis to get to 5-2, but did not reach base in the final three innings.
The Rangers, who dropped to 0-6 in home playoff games, were 1 of 11 with runners in scoring position and left 12 men on base the past two games.
“There are things we liked offensively,” third baseman Michael Young said. “We ran into some hard outs and they made some great plays defensively.”
The Rangers are also looking for Josh Hamilton to break out of a funk. The American League batting champion is 2 for 14 in the series without an RBI.
Hamilton missed nearly all of September with two broken ribs after crashing into an outfield wall. He returned for the final three games of the regular season.
“I don’t think anyone is 100 percent right now,” Washington said. “It’s not an excuse, but he hasn’t seen pitching in a while and he is facing some pretty good pitching right now.”
With their hitting star trying to turn things around, the Rangers will need their pitching ace to come up big again.
“The bottom line is to win one more game and move on,” Texas left fielder David Murphy said. “We’ve been in that same situation the last two days and didn’t get it done. Cliff is going for us and we have to like our chances.”
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.