Rangers, Rays kick off postseason

First playoff appearance in 15 years. Packed house in Philadelphia. Goose bumps galore.

By the time Joey Votto and the Cincinnati Reds have a chance to soak it all in, Phillies ace Roy Halladay will be in the middle of his windup.

“You’ve got to start somewhere,” said Reds manager Dusty Baker, whose team is in the playoffs for the first time since 1995.

Ryan Howard and the Phillies are swinging for their third straight pennant. Texas is trying to win a playoff series for the first time. The wild-card Yankees hope to repeat as World Series champs.

Postseason baseball begins today, with a trio of Cy Young Award winners on the mound: Halladay, the Rangers’ Cliff Lee and the Yankees’ CC Sabathia.

In the first of three marquee pitching matchups, all on TBS, Lee goes for the Rangers against the Tampa Bay Rays, who will throw an ace of their own – David Price – under the roof at Tropicana Field.

Texas’ dangerous lineup features playoff newcomers Josh Hamilton and Michael Young, but the Rangers are the only current major league franchise that hasn’t won a playoff series.

Lee was acquired from Seattle in July to help change that. The left-hander went 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five postseason starts for the Phillies last year.

Next, Halladay and the Phillies host the Reds in a best-of-five series opener.

With three aces in the rotation and a playoff-tested team, Philadelphia is heavily favored to reach its third consecutive World Series. The last National League club to do that was the St. Louis Cardinals, from 1942-44.

But the Reds, led by Votto, a top contender for National League MVP, can slug with just about anybody.

Halladay will be making his playoff debut after 13 seasons. He’ll face Edinson Volquez.

The final game has Sabathia and the Yankees facing AL Central champion Minnesota in a first-round series for the fourth time since 2003.