The Texas Rangers are ready, are you? Finally, for the first time since 1999 the Texas Rangers are heading to the post season. Their opposition though, is going to be tough. The Tampa Bay Rays (for some reason I wish I could still call them the Devil Rays) are one of the best young teams in baseball. The Rays are coming into their prime and there may not be much more time for the Rays as leaders like Carl Crawford, will become free agents after this season. Lets take a look at this series a little more.
2010 Head to Head: Tampa won season series 4-2 (3-0 at Tropicana Field, 1-2 at Rangers Ballpark)
NOTES: Tampa has played just under .500 baseball in the last month of the season while in a pennant race with the Yankees. The Rays lead the AL in Walks and Stolen Bases. Texas is 0-12 on the road against all AL Playoff Teams.
Keys to the Series:
Josh Hamilton, say what you want about the rest of the supporting cast but Hamilton will have to be the leader on the field for Texas. After coming off a rib injury, one that can nag a player especially in his swing, Hamilton will have to find his form to get the Rays through to the ALCS. Texas will also have some veteran experience on their side. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Bengie Molina will be a huge asset to this team. He has great ability to call a game and is a great defensive catcher. Everything like even a blocked ball could be the difference in a series win or loss. Molina can also be a leader in the dressing room. Add to this mix a guy like Vladdy Guerrero, who has his own playoff experiences in the past, and Molina in Anaheim, and the Rangers have veteran presence in the room to calm down the guys who have never been to the playoffs. The two biggest things that favor the Rangers are that it is a best of five series and not seven, and that they are not playing the Yankees, who seem to have their playoff number. The Rangers also do not have the pressure of being the favorite in this series. Most people already have a Yankees/Rays ALCS predicted which may just help the Rangers with having less pressure.
Pitching will also be huge, the Rays boast a great young pitching staff with playoff experience. Some fans may remember David Price pitching in 5 games in the Rays 2008 run to the World Series, including the final outs against the Red Sox in Game 7 of the ALCS to get to the World Series. Matt Garza will also be tough to beat, and the only positive is that you see Garza in Texas and not Tampa. Garza is 2-3 all time in Arlington and boasts a Texas sized 6.04 ERA. I like the fact that the Rangers are sending Lee in right off the bat. Trying to steal a win in Tampa is no easy feat, especially for a team that hasn’t beaten an AL playoff-bound team on the road all season. Lee was 5-0 last year in the post season and knows how to win in hardest of ballparks. If the Rangers can split the first two games in Tampa they have a very good shot of winning the series.
PITCHING PROBABLES AND PREDICTIONS: (Note my picks for games after game three)
Game 1 – TEXAS Cliff Lee (12-9, 3.08 ERA) at TAMPA David Price (19-8, 2.84 ERA) – I like Lee in this one for some reason. I think if Lee can keep the Rays off the board the first few innings, that Texas can steal the momentum and the game. Keep his pitch count down and look for Lee to potentially pitch a complete game if needed to win. I see this a low scoring game and the Rangers stealing Game 1.
Game 2 – TEXAS C.J. Wilson (15-8, 3.35 ERA) at TAMPA James Shields (13-15, 5.18 ERA)- CJ Wilson has never started a post season game and has never started a game at Tropicana Field. Tampa will take advantage of this and hit him hard. I think Shields is due for a great post-season start, look for a solid 6-7 innings out of Shields, while Tampa wins this one by 2-3 runs.
Game 3 – TAMPA Matt Garza (15-10 , 3.91) at TEXAS Colby Lewis (12-13, 3.72 ERA) – Garza and the Rays take the first one in Texas. The series will be 2-1 at this point and the Rangers will have their work cut out for them heading into game 4.
Game 4 – TAMPA David Price(19-8, 2.84 ERA) at TEXAS Tommy Hunter (13-4, 3.73 ERA) – Tampa tries to put away Texas but a walk off hit in extra innings gets Texas through to send this to game 5 in Tampa. Hunter had a complete game in Texas this year against the Rays and this move, instead of Lee may get the Rangers the edge going into Tampa.
Game 5 TEXAS Cliff Lee (12-9, 3.08 ERA) vs TAMPA James Shields ( 13-15, 5.18 ERA) – Lee does what he does best and that’s win the big game. The exact reason the Rangers acquired Lee was for games like this. Look for this to be a big win for the Rangers and prove to be a huge upset.
TEXAS over Tampa bay in 5 games as per above preview
NEW YORK YANKEES vs MINNESOTA TWINS
Yankees in 4 – With Justin Morneau being out of the lineup, the Twins just wont be able to muster up enough offense to win the series.
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES vs CINCINNATI REDS
Phillies in 4 – Cincy takes one at home before Halladay gets his second win of the series to close it out.
ATLANTA BRAVES vs SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Braves in 5 – Playing for Bobby Cox the Braves somehow squeak this series out.
Yankees over Rangers in 5- Too much fire power even for Cliff Lee to overcome, Rangers will just be happy to be here.
Phillies over Braves in 4 – Bobby Cox gets to manage his last game in Atlanta
Philly over Yankees in 6 – This time the Phillies have the aces to overcome the Yankees bats and they will be playing with a bitter taste in their mouths from last season’s loss in the World Series.
There you have the preview for now, keep checking back for the latest Rangers updates.
About the Author
Written by George Kouvalis
A huge fan of sports who loves to travel for major events. I've seen my fair share of major games and events including three Olympics, Wimbledon, The Masters etc.... Always up for a road trip or a drink to talk over sports or pro wrestling, in any city I am in or online. Favorite Teams: Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto FC, Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago Bulls, San Francisco 49ers, Toronto Argonauts, Manchester United, and of course the teams I blog for, the Texas Rangers and Buffalo Sabres. Follow me on twitter at the handle georgekouvalis