In the first two games at Tropicana Field, the Rays couldn't hit, especially in clutch situations.
When the series moved to Arlington, the Rangers' bats went cold.
Both teams seemed to play better on the road, where they could get away from the demands of winning in front of the home crowd.
If Tuesday night's deciding Game 5 follows the same pattern as the rest of the series, the Rays appear to be in trouble. But it's never that simple when the stakes are win or go home, is it?
Keeping that in mind, here are five things worth keeping an eye on as the Rays and Rangers play for a spot in the ALCS against the New York Yankees:
1. Sunlight makes the Rangers paranoid: Do the Rangers really believe they play better at night? If so, they might be overlooking that they won Games 1 and 2 played during the day. (Of course, they were indoors at Tropicana Field, so maybe it just felt like night.)
The earlier start times for Games 3 and 4 in Arlington seemed to have bothered the Rangers, though. Jeff Francoeur(notes) was particularly outspoken about the noon local start for Sunday's Game 4. (Even Rays manager Joe Maddon said it felt like being placed in the "loser's bracket.")
Josh Hamilton(notes) hits better in night games, batting almost 100 points higher (.384 compared to .286). Considering that he played 61 more games at night, however, perhaps it stands to reason his numbers would be better in that situation. He admits that getting a full night of sleep is far more important than playing in sunlight.
2. The Rays are starting virtually the same lineup against Cliff Lee(notes): As the old saying goes, dance with the one that brought you. That's what Maddon seems to believe, as he's going with a mostly right-handed lineup again versus Lee. This would be much the same lineup that managed only one run and six hits against Lee in Game 1.
One key difference could be at designated hitter. Rocco Baldelli(notes) was the DH in Game 1, and hit 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. He was then removed from the Rays' playoff roster because of "left leg fatigue," and replaced by Willy Aybar(notes). If Aybar gets the start at DH Tuesday night, he's batting .333 (4-for-12) with two RBIs against Lee. The other choice is Dan Johnson(notes), who hit .353 against left-handed starters this season.
3. Will David Price(notes) learn from his Game 1 mistakes? Price largely lived on his fastball this season. Sticking with two-seam and four-seam fastballs, while throwing fewer sliders and splitters seems to have helped his control.
But in Game 1, relying so much on the fastball got him in trouble. Especially the high fastball. Rangers hitters jumped on it, pounding Price for nine hits.
Matt Garza(notes) and Wade Davis(notes) had much more success by mixing in off-speed pitches so Rangers hitters couldn't sit on the fastball. Will Price try a similar approach in Game 5 or stay with what worked during the regular season?
4. C.J. Wilson(notes) is available to pitch in relief: As well as Lee pitched in Game 1, Wilson may have been even better in Game 2. In just over six innings, he held the Rays to two hits with seven strikeouts. Tampa Bay got only eight hits against Lee and Wilson. So what will the Rays do if they have to face both pitchers in the same game?
Thanks to Monday's off-day in the series, Wilson has had four full days of rest. And with the Rays' lack of success against left-handed pitching in this series, the Rangers probably want to keep using lefties as much as possible.
But Darren Oliver(notes) has already made three appearances in this series, and Derek Holland(notes) pitched four innings in Sunday's Game 4. Both pitchers may be running low on gas. And up until this season, Wilson mostly pitched in relief. He'd be quite a weapon for Ron Washington to pull out of the bullpen, if needed.
5. The Rays have faced do-or-die pressure: Playing in a series-deciding, lose-and-you-go-home final game brings a different kind of pressure. And we know the Rangers have never won a game like that. They've never won a playoff series, period. They'll have to rely upon guys who have had experience with other teams, like Lee and Vladimir Guerrero(notes).
Many of the Rays on this team played a Game 7 in the 2008 ALCS versus the Red Sox. And in addition to dealing with lose-or-go-home pressure, Tampa Bay faced the potential embarrassment of blowing a 3-1 series lead. Succeeding under those circumstances might be the sort of playoff experience that really means something.