In 2009, Davis enjoyed a taste of the bigs with a September call up.  In 2010, Davis is getting more than a taste, as the Rays turn to their 25-year-old rookie right hander to keep their playoff hopes alive.  Davis will make his postseason debut against one of the most fearsome offenses in baseball.  Oh yeah, there’s this teeny tiny bit of pressure about a must-win game if the Rays season isn’t to end.

The Rays, after staving off elimination by winning Game 3 last night (P.S. Thank you to the Rays offense for showing they had a pulse) could have turned to ace lefty David Price to start Game 4 on three days rest.  But Price of all people would be able to tell you how much the Rays trust their young guns to make the team’s biggest outs.

In 2008 as a rookie with all of 20 or so innings of major league experience, the Rays called on Price to close out Game 7 of the ALCS.  And we all know how that turned out.

So it is only fitting that the Rays once again turn to a young gun to force a Game 5. And here’s the funny thing:

Davis actually might be up to the task.

Davis appeared to turn a corner after the All-Star break.  After baseball’s midseason classic, Davis went 6-1 with a 3.28 ERA.  Since coming off the DL in mid-August, his ERA is 3.06. 

Davis did not do well against Texas in his last start in Arlington in July.  He lasted only into the fourth inning before giving up eight runs.  But something clicked for Davis after that start.  Thirteen of his final 17 starts were quality starts, pitching six innings or more, giving up three earned runs or fewer.

Game 4 can mean a lot more than just bringing the series back to St. Pete for a Game 5 Price vs. Lee, winner-take-all matchup.  How well Davis performs can be a litmus test for how ready Davis is to handle big games.  It’s a lot to put on Davis, and probably unfair to read too much into one game. 

But the Rays may trade a starting pitcher in the offseason in an efforts to land a big bat, and I’m sure they would feel a lot better about it if they felt Davis was ready to take on a larger role.

Is Davis a front-line starter?  Is he ready to have that role in 2011? 

The Rays can start to answer that question with the very first pitch of Game 4 against Texas.

Tampa Bay gets another shot at sending the series back home, another shot to dig themselves out of a huge hole.  A hole that only one team has ever climbed out of.

Leave it to the Rays to put their hopes in a rookie.

They wouldn’t have it any other way.

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