St. Petersburg, Florida -- The Tampa Bay Rays could clinch a playoff spot Friday night.

According to research by our CBS Sports colleague, that would make them the first team in baseball history to make the playoffs while dead last in attendance. Buy postseason tickets
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Will their ticket sales turn around if they make the postseason? Or will Tropicana Field still be a sea of empty seats?

The last Rays home game this season had a ballpark about half full -- around 18,000 fans.

If the Rays play well enough this weekend to earn a home playoff game at the Trop, can that be turned into a stadium sellout?

Let's look at the Rays' playoff past for answers.

2008 was the Rays' breakout year.

Locked in a fight for a division title, their last home game of the regular season drew almost 36,000 people. Did that enthusiasm carry over into the playoffs?

Yes. Attendance at the first playoff game was about the same, around 35,000.

In 2011, even more drama.

In the last game of the regular season, after midnight, Evan Longoria smashed a home run to put the Rays in the playoffs.

Their attendance for that pivotal final game -- around 30,000 -- was about matched by a still-excited crowd in the playoffs of 33,000.

But 2010? That was a lot like this year.

Attendance was so poor, the Rays gave away tickets to the last regular-season home game. For the game before that, against the Orioles, the Rays drew around 18,000 fans.

This year, in the last home game, also against the Orioles, the Rays also drew about 18,000.

So how did it end in 2010?

Did the Trop bounce back for the playoffs with double the crowd, or did it stay half-empty?

I have good news.

In 2010, fans who didn't come at the end of the regular season sure did show up for the playoffs. A crowd of 35,000 came for the first playoff game that year.

So, if that history is repeated, a Wild Card playoff game on Wednesday at the Trop should have quite a crowd.

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