ST. PETERSBURG -- Kelly Shoppach attended Brewer High School in White Settlement, Texas, near Dallas, so he grew up a Texas Rangers fan, which adds to the excitement of the Rangers-Rays matchup.
"It's awesome, I mean what an experience," Shoppach said.
Shoppach had many favorites on the Rangers, rattling off the names of Rusty Greer, Jeff Frye, Juan Gonzalez, John Wetteland and Pudge Rodriguez.
"Now that Michael Young's been there for what seems like forever, and he finally gets a chance to play in the postseason, I'm very glad for him," Shoppach said. "I was a fan of his before I even got to pro ball."
The Rays catcher managed to find some irony in the fact he is playing against the team he once followed.
"Ever since I was a little kid, I was rooting for these guys to get to the [World Series]," said Shoppach, noting they never made it to the Fall Classic. "And now that I'm in the playoffs against them, I want to see that streak continue."
Rays hope Pena can get hot in heart of lineup
ST. PETERBURG -- It isn't very often you see a .196 hitter bat fifth in Game 1 of the postseason. But Carlos Pena still has a presence to him, as evidenced by 28 homers and 84 RBIs. So he was right in the thick of the Rays' lineup on Wednesday, even against nasty Rangers left-hander Cliff Lee.
Before this season, Pena had a streak of three straight 30-100 campaigns.
"Well, the big thing with Carlos, he could, as they say, go off at any time," said Rays manager Joe Maddon. "There was a pretty big hit he had the other day against [KC's Joakim] Soria, and I think that did something for his confidence. He had a big home run at home against Baltimore. With Carlos, again, power hitters like him tend to be streaky."
The beauty for a player who has a disappointing season but still makes the postseason is the chance for redemption.
"You're in a situation like this right now where we're beginning a new season, and I'd like for him to think that there are no numbers attached to his name, that he's going to come out and start playing and have a nice second season this year," said Maddon. "And then beyond that, obviously Carlos is really important to us defensively."
Joyce remains ready to contribute
ST. PETERBURG -- Matt Joyce hits left-handed, so he wasn't in Wednesday afternoon's Game 1 lineup against tough Texas left-hander Cliff Lee, despite his efforts to convince Rays manager Joe Maddon of his abilities.
"I've been telling Joe that I've been working on my right-handed swing for a while," Joyce teased.
While Joyce was not in the starting lineup, he certainly was a candidate for late-inning pinch-hitting duty.
"I just need to stay ready as much as I can," Joyce said. "Try and come up big when the situation arises."
Joyce has had some success as a pinch-hitter this season, including a grand slam on July 3 at Minnesota that proved to be the difference in a Rays win.
"Pinch-hitting's tough, it's hard," Joyce said. "And I think the more you do it, the more you get used to it and the better you get at it. And hopefully that helps me out during the postseason."
Joyce hit .250 against the Rangers in 2010, and is a .333 career hitter against them for his career. To prepare for possible trips to the plate, he has viewed video of the different Rangers relievers.
"I faced a couple of those guys, you definitely have to be prepared in all aspects for everyone you face," Joyce said.
Price wins Spahn Award
ST. PETERBURG -- Rays ace David Price has won the Warren Spahn Award, recognizing the top left-handed pitcher in the Major Leagues.
Price trailed Boston's Jon Lester until the final week of the season in the award's point system, which evaluates pitchers based on wins, strikeouts and ERA.
Lester gave up eight runs in his final start of the season against the White Sox, failing in his bid to become the first Red Sox left-hander in 57 years to win 20 games.
That allowed Price to move ahead. The AL starter in this year's All-Star game finished 19-6 with a 2.72 ERA and 188 strikeouts.
Price has been invited to accept the award at a gala in Oklahoma City in January.
CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees won it the past two years.