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David Price’s complete game lifts Rays to playoffs, win over Rangers

TampBay Rays' Evan Longorirounds bases his two-run home run against Texas Rangers during third inning an American League wild-card tiebreaker

Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria rounds the bases on his two-run home run against the Texas Rangers during the third inning of an American League wild-card tiebreaker baseball game Monday, Sept. 30, 2013, in Arlington, Texas. Texas Rangers' Adrian Beltre is at rear. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

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Updated: September 30, 2013 10:50PM

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - Team Tarmac has landed in the American League playoffs.

Evan Longoria once again provided a crucial final-game home run, augmenting a stellar complete-game performance by David Price to lead the Tampa Bay Rays to a 5-2 victory over the Texas Rangers on Monday night in the league’s wild-card tiebreaker game.

That sends the Rays to Cleveland to face the Indians in Wednesday night’s wild-card game, that winner headed to the Division Series in Boston that will begin on Friday.

The Rays punched their ticket to the postseason by sweeping three games early last week at Yankee Stadium, salvaging the finale of a three-game weekend series at Toronto, then downing the Rangers.

If the Rays win in Cleveland and proceed to Boston, the club will log approximately 4,550 air miles since leaving Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg more than a week ago.

“We can recycle shirts; that’s easy,” Rays outfielder David DeJesus said before the game. “But underwear, we’ve gotta keep those clean.”

Due largely to injuries, Price (10-8) did not replicate the performance that earned him the 2012 Cy Young Award.

But Monday, he pitched like the postseason ace the Rays need.

And it was a far cry from his four previous career appearances at Rangers Ballpark that produced an ERA of 10.26. He limited Texas to seven hits and walked one. And he picked off two runners in the first three innings, keeping his pitch count low enough to chug into the ninth inning.

Price didn’t stop until it was all over, getting just-activated Nelson Cruz to ground out to shortstop and end the game on his 118th pitch.

Longoria went 3-for-4 and came only a triple short of hitting for the cycle. He drove in two runs and scored twice. The home run gives him seven in season-ending games, tying him with Stan Musial for the most among all major leaguers.

For Rays veterans like Longoria and Price, Monday night’s victory exacted a measure of revenge. Tampa Bay was beaten by Texas in Division Series play in 2010 and 2011, when the Rangers made the franchise’s only trips to the World Series.

Cruz returned to Texas’ lineup after serving a 50-game suspension in connection with the Biogenesis scandal. Cruz, the Rangers’ leader in home runs and RBI when he was suspended on Aug. 5, went 0-for-4 with a strikeout.

Tampa Bay (92-71) makes its fourth postseason appearance in the past six seasons. Texas (91-72), which extended a club record with its fourth consecutive season of at least 90 wins, fell short of the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

Rangers rookie lefthander Martin Perez (10-6) gave up three runs in 5 1/3 innings. He allowed the game’s first four batters to reach but only one run in the first. Longoria’s third-inning home run provided Price all the cushion that he needed.

The Rays lost a run when Delmon Young’s fly to center field was ruled a catch by left-field umpire Bruce Dreckman; replays showed centerfielder Leonys Martin trapped it.

The Rays will start one of two right-handers, Jeremy Hellickson or rookie Alex Cobb, on Wednesday in Cleveland. Each faced the Indians once this season and won. The Indians will start rookie righthander Danny Salazar for the franchise’s first post-season game since 2007. Salazar had a 3.12 ERA in 10 starts.

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