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MLB Playoffs ALDS Rangers-Rays: Starting Pitching

Price established himself as a legit ace in this league this season, as he posted the best year ever by a Rays pitcher, going 19-6 with a 2.72 earned run average. Depending on how much emphasis Cy Young voters put on him pitching big games in September he may very well walk away with some hardware at the end of the season.

But, after Price the pickings are slim for manager Joe Maddon.

James Shields was wildly inconsistent for the Rays this year, as he went just 13-15 with a 5.18 ERA. Despite leading the league in runs and losing his last three starts and final four decisions, Maddon has decided to hand the ball to "Big Game" James in Game 2.

Getting the ball in Game 3 will be right-hander Matt Garza, who was a horse for the Rays during their run to the 2008 AL pennant. Garza, though, has struggled of late and ended the year with losses in three of his last four decisions to finish the season at 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA.

Maddon had to choose between a pair of rookie right-handers for his Game 4 assignment but settled on Wade Davis, who was 12-10 with a 4.07 ERA.

Like the Rays, the Rangers have a left-handed ace and then not much else. Although, Texas' postseason rotation does have a lower combined ERA than any of the top four starters from the other three AL teams.

Lee, who will be a free agent at season's end, can make himself a lot of money if he puts forth the type of effort in these playoffs as he did last year while pitching for Philadelphia when he went 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five starts.

The 32-year-old hurler, though, hasn't been that effective since coming to the Rangers and was just 4-6 with a 3.98 ERA in 15 starts. He also lost four of his last six regular season decisions.

After Lee, Rangers manager Ron Washington will turn to another lefty in C.J. Wilson, who was a pleasant surprise for Texas this season transitioning from reliever to starter and going 15-8 with a 3.35 ERA.

Fatigue, though, could be setting in, as he won just one time in his last six starts.

Colby Lewis will be the Rangers' Game 3 starter. In his first year back in the big leagues after spending the last two seasons in Japan, Lewis went 12-13 with a 3.72 ERA, but won three of his last four decisions.

Heading to the hill in Game 4 will be righty Tommy Hunter, who despite making his season debut on June 5, finished the year 13-4 with a 3.73 ERA.

In a sign of just how much things have changed for the Rangers, two years ago they were dead last in the American League with a team-ERA of 5.37. This year the Rangers finished fourth in the league with a 3.93 ERA -- their lowest since a 3.83 team ERA in 1990 and this was their highest ranking as a staff since they led the league in 1983.

Photographs by cstreet.us, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.