SERIES SCHEDULE (Best-of-5)
Game 1: Today, Texas (Lee 12-9) at Tampa Bay (Price 19-6), 1:37
Game 2: Tomorrow, Texas (Wilson 15-8) at Tampa Bay (Shields 13-15), 2:37
Game 3: Saturday, Tampa Bay (Garza 15-10) at Texas (Lewis 12-13), 5:07
Game 4: Sunday, Tampa Bay (Davis 12-10) at Texas (Hunter 13-4), 1:07, if necessary
Game 5: Tuesday, Texas at Tampa Bay, 5:07 or 8:07, if necessary
Avg..276 (1st) .247 (13th)
Runs787 (4th) 802 (3rd)
RBI740 (5th) 769 (3rd)
Home Runs162 (5th) 160 (6th)
OBA.338 (4th) .333 (6th)
ERA3.93 (3rd) 3.78 (2nd)
Strikeouts1,181 (4th) 1,189 (2nd)
History: The Rangers and Rays have never met in postseason play.
This season: The Rays won the season series, 4-2, outscoring the Rangers, 40-31, in the process.
About the Rangers: They are back in the playoffs for the first time since 1999. They've gotten here by simply outhitting their opponents. Josh Hamilton is back in the lineup after missing 24 games due to a couple of broken ribs and that's huge. Hamilton hit .359 to win the American League batting title. Vladimir Guerrero has had quite the resurgence, with 29 homers and 115 RBI in 152 games. Cliff Lee was acquired at midseason and while he hasn't exactly dominated, he posted a 12-9 record with a 3.18 ERA. C.J Wilson has been a perfect complement to Lee by winning 15 games with a 3.35 ERA in the process. If the duo can get things going in the playoffs, the Rangers could be dangerous.
About the Rays: The Rays have one of the worst team batting averages (.247) in baseball, but that hasn't prevented them from scoring runs. The team has speed and then some. Carl Crawford will likely leave the team during the offseason, but for now his 47 stolen bases leads a team that has six players with 10 or more. Carlos Pena finished the season on the wrong side of the Mendoza line but also led the team with 28 home runs. Evan Longoria led the team with 104 RBI. David Price had a breakout season, winning 19 games as the staff ace. Matt Garza and James Shields complete a fairly formidable trio in Tampa Bay's rotation.
Fun fact: The Rays and the Rangers have the two lowest payrolls of the playoff teams. Neither team's payroll exceeds $75 million.
What to look for: The Rangers feature a more conventional offense than Tampa Bay's, but the Rays scored more runs this season. Will Tampa Bay's speed on the basepaths prove to be the difference? Can Cliff Lee regain his dominant form? Both teams feature strong closers - the Rangers have Neftali Perez, the Rays have Rafael Soriano. Because of this, both teams will be looking to score early.
Predictions: Rays will win: Rich Hofmann (4), John Smallwood (4), Sam Donnellon (5), Paul Hagen (5), Marcus Hayes (5). Rangers will win: Bill Conlin (4), David Murphy (4).
- Kyle Gauss