After winning two of three against the major-league-best Cleveland, the Tampa Bay Rays continue their homestand with three games against the Texas Rangers. The Rays will see Derek Holland, who lasted a mere four innings against the Chicago White Sox in his last start, face off against Wade Davis - the only starter to get the win against Texas in last year's playoffs.
Rays fans should remember a painfully unlucky series from the ALDS in 2010. This will be the teams' first meeting of since, without Cliff Lee this time. The Rays will still need to put up a fight, Texas is among the top ten teams in the majors for batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage and runs scored. Luckily the Texas rotation is injured (Matt Harrison, Eric Hurley, Tommy Hunter and Scott Feldman are on the disabled list) and the bullpen has been all but sleeping on the mound. If the Rays continue to swing a hot bat it will be an even series.
What To Watch For
- Pitchers to struggle with command. Rays starter Wade Davis has sacrificed velocity for control in recent weeks and could try upping the speed as he's gotten more comfortable, but there's no guarantee the control will remain. Contrary, the former rookie-of-the-year closer Natalie Feliz has struggled, despite earning ten saves this season. Feliz has walked nine in 9.2 innings this month.
- Where Evan Longoria will bat. In two games at leadoff, Longo has hit 4-7 with 3 runs and 3 walks including one homerun. Longoria had five hits in ten games prior to the change. At lead off he will have more at bats but less opportunity to bring runners home. To stay would be very unconventional, but Maddon may keep him there until the magic wears off.
- Casey Kotchman to sit. The veteran first baseman left yesterday's game with an ankle injury in the fourth on a slide into second. He is listed as day-to-day, but with a lefty on the mound he may be given the day off in favor of the switch hitting Felipe Lopez.
- Josh Hamilton to play the field. He returned to left on saturday after being sidelined with a broken arm. He would consider the DH position in the future, but with Michael Young and Adrian Beltre on the roster, the outfield remains the Rangers' best choice.
- The Rangers to be eager. Texas will be on the road 17 of their next 20 games, starting tonight in the Trop, and will fight to start strong.