ARLINGTON, Texs — David Price and Evan Longoria kept the Tampa Bay Rays’ season alive Monday with exceptional performances in Game No. 163.
Price went the distance for the fourth time this year and Longoria belted a deciding two-run homer to give the Rays a 5-2 victory over the Texas Rangers in a one-game playoff to determine the AL’s second wild card winner.
The teams came in with identical 91-71 records after a roller coaster September and were playing for the right to play in Cleveland on Wednesday.
Price (10-8), who came in sporting an ugly 10.26 ERA in four career starts in Arlington, made sure the Rays moved on by limiting the Rangers to two runs on seven hits. The ace struck out four, walked one and retired 11 of the last 12 batters he faced to finish off his gem.
Longoria reached base in four of his five plate appearances, adding a walk, a single and a double to a home run that sent the Rays into the postseason for the fourth time in the past six years.
The Rays have an off day Tuesday — their first in three weeks — before playing the Indians in a one-game playoff, with the winner set to play the Boston Red Sox in the division series.
The Rangers, looking to reach the postseason for the fourth straight year, opted to start rookie Martin Perez opposite the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner. Perez (10-6) settled in after a slow start, but not before allowing three runs on four hits and a pair of walks over 5 1/3 innings.
The Rays will face another rookie Wednesday in Danny Salazar, who started the year in Double-A but has a respectable 3.12 ERA in 10 outings for the Indians.
Cleveland won its final 10 games for the right to host the wild card game, while the Rangers needed a seven-game winning streak just to force Monday’s play-in — the 10th one-game tiebreaker in MLB history.
Texas seemingly received a boost in its lineup with the return of the suspended Nelson Cruz, but the slugger went 0-for-4 and the club never dug itself out of an early hole.
Perez showed big-game jitters out of the gate. The 22-year-old lefty bought a moment of relief when Desmond Jennings was thrown out trying to stretch his leadoff hit into a double, but a walk and consecutive singles put Perez in a jam.
Delmon Young, a late-season free agent pickup, drove a sacrifice fly to center field to bring in Wil Myers, and the Rays padded their lead in the third.
Jennings reached on a walk to open the frame, and after the next two hitters recorded outs, Longoria golfed a first-pitch fastball to right-center that carried over the wall and gave Tampa Bay a 3-0 cushion.
Price erased a walk in the first inning by picking off Elvis Andrus and shook off a leadoff double the next frame. He couldn’t escaped the third unscathed as Craig Gentry led off with a single, moved to second on a groundout and scored on Ian Kinsler’s bloop single over the second baseman.
For the second time in the game, however, Price outsmarted a baserunner and caught Kinsler trying to steal second to end the frame.
Despite retiring eight straight and having thrown just 74 pitches, Perez was pulled with one out in the sixth. Longoria greeted Alexi Ogando with a double to right-center, and David DeJesus, pinch-hitting for Sean Rodriguez, followed with a double into the right-field corner to knock in another run.
Ogando left the bases loaded, and the Rangers nearly pulled within a run in the bottom half when Alex Rios sent one deep to left-center. The line drive hit the wall, though, and Rios settled for an RBI double instead of a two-run homer.
Rios was stranded on third, and a Tanner Scheppers’ throwing error on a pickoff attempt allowed the Rays to tack on an insurance run in the ninth. Sam Fuld was dead-to-rights trying to steal third, but Scheppers threw wildly and into left field as Fuld scored on the costly error.
With his pitch count at 108 entering the ninth, Price stayed in the game. He retired Adrian Beltre on flyout just in front of the left-field wall and induced groundouts from A.J. Pierzynski and Cruz to end the Rangers’ season.