The Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers will open up a five-game American League division series Friday night inside Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Tampa Bay Rays at Texas Rangers
Tampa Bay finished off an improbable regular season by erasing a nine-game deficit to capture the AL Wild Card spot. The Rays weren’t expected to make the playoffs after watching key players leave the roster, including Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Matt Garza and Rafael Soriano. Offensively, the team will be looking to score more runs than it did against the Rangers in last year’s series, plating just 13 runs and 37 hits in five games. “Every night we take the field, we believe we have a chance based on our starting pitching,” commented Rays manager Joe Maddon. “There’s nothing worse than taking the field knowing you have a great disadvantage on the mound.” Tampa Bay is 44-37 on the road this season.
Rays starting pitcher Matt Moore will be making just his fourth appearance (second start) in a Major League uniform Friday, coming in with a 1-0 record and 2.89 ERA. The left-hander can be dominating, registering 15 strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings of work. “I don’t think we have qualms about doing anything,” commented Maddon about starting a rookie in the opener. “If we don’t utilize everybody within our rosters here, or within the organization, we’re missing out.”
Texas enters having won consecutive AL West crowns and simply wants to go a step farther after losing last year’s World Series to the San Francisco Giants. “Yeah, absolutely,” Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler stated. “There’s no doubt the goal is to win the World Series. That’s what everybody is pushing for.” The Rangers beat the Rays in five games in the ALDS last year and won five of nine meetings during the regular season in 2011. Texas enters as one of the hottest teams in baseball, winning six straight and 14 of 16. During the regular season, the team was 19-6 on Friday and 26-22 versus left-handed starters.
Rangers starting pitcher C.J. Wilson finished the 2011 regular season with a 16-7 record and 2.94 ERA, leading the team to wins in five of his last six outings. The left-hander registered an 8-2 record and 3.69 ERA in 16 home starts, compiling 94 strikeouts in 102 1/3 frames. Wilson has made 17 career appearance (four starts) versus the Rays, posting a 4-0 record and 2.25 ERA, limiting them to a .172 batting average. He tossed 6 1/3 shutout innings against Tampa Bay during Game 2 of last year’s series.
Bettors will likely back the Rangers due to their 36-15 record in Wilson’s last 51 starts as a favorite, while the Rays are 2-6 in their last eight playoff games.
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