Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays @ Texas Rangers - Tower Defense

Fernando Rodney in charge of wearing a hat

With the Rays shuttled out of Florida by the hot air of the Republican Party and the stiff winds of Tropical Storm Isaac, they will find no reprieve in Texas. The Rangers are hitting again. But they've been hitting against the likes of the Blue Jays, Orioles, and Twins. This series should be a nice test for both teams. The Rays' starters are as good as advertised and their bullpen is one of the best in the league.

David Price will probably win the Cy Young award if he doesn't crater in the final month of the season. James Shields is having a bit of a down year--but not a bad year--and has a change-up that always seems to fool the Rangers (Except in October). Alex Cobb goes on Wednesday and is their #5 starter coming off a complete game shutout of the A's. The riches are embarrassing for the Rays in the rotation. Though, I have my doubts that they're all that embarrassed about it.

The Rangers counter with probably their top three starters in Derek Holland, Yu Darvish, and Matt Harrison (in the order that they will pitch in this series). So, at least the Rangers will be putting their best foot forward against a team that is getting hot when getting hot is good. It seems inevitable now, as we near September, that these teams are on a collision course for another postseason battle. It wasn't long ago that it didn't seem that way at all, though. The Rays were rumored to be sellers at the deadline. James Shields was heading to Anaheim. Ben Zobrist was hugging teammates in the dugout. B.J. Upton was in his millionth rumored deal.

But the Rays held firm. And with good reason. The Rays are good. We all expected that they would be. Really though, they just did what the Rays do; they hung around in the tough A.L. East all summer and hit the afterburners as we reached August. Now the Rays lead the first Wild Card spot and trail the Yankees in the East by only four games. It just feels like they'll make it. And if they do, they've got David Price in their back pocket for any team that wants to play them for the right to play a postseason series. And if they win that, before October is up, they'll hear from the Rangers again. That's just how Octobers go.

We know all about inevitability. In 1996-1999, it felt like no matter what the Rangers did, they were destined to face the New York Yankees in the playoffs. Sometimes these things are unavoidable. For the Rays, there may be no escape.

Monday, August 27 7:05: LHP David Price vs. LHP Derek Holland

Tuesday, August 28 7:05: RHP James Shields vs. RHP Yu Darvish

Wednesday, August 29 6:05: RHP Alex Cobb vs. LHP Matt Harrison

Here's a breakdown of the pitching match-ups against the postseason memory factory Tampa Bay Rays:

  • Derek Holland: 8-6, 7.24 K/9, 2.74 BB/9, .254 BABIP, 65.2% LOB, 4.76 FIP, 4.21 xFIP, 1.2 WAR - Last three starts: 8 runs allowed in 20.1 innings
  • David Price: 16-4, 8.84 K/9, 2.65 BB/9, .275 BABIP, 83.3% LOB, 3.06 FIP, 3.11 xFIP, 4.2 WAR - Last three starts: 2 runs allowed in 22.0 innings

Advantage: It is said that Derek Holland has a chance to match any pitcher on any given day because he has David Price-esque stuff. Well, he did it once this month against Justin Verlander. Now he's got to do it against Price himself having a potential Cy Young season.

  • Yu Darvish: 12-9, 10.48 K/9, 4.88 BB/9, .309 BABIP, 69.9% LOB, 3.74 FIP, 3.81 xFIP, 3.0 WAR - Last three starts: 12 runs allowed in 20.1 innings
  • James Shields: 12-7, 8.64 K/9, 2.42 BB/9, .311 BABIP, 69.3% LOB, 3.68 FIP, 3.37 xFIP, 2.9 WAR - Last three starts: 8 runs allowed in 20.2 innings

Advantage: Quad tightness caused Yu Darvish to miss a start in the Twins series. Darvish had strung together a couple of solid starts after struggling for a month. The last time Darvish was skipped he came back and had probably his worst start as a big leaguer in Seattle. James Shields is still a Ray. James Shields is still good. James Shields has a history of being tough on the Rangers in every month that isn't October.

  • Matt Harrison: 15-7, 5.38 K/9, 2.56 BB/9, .276 BABIP, 78.5% LOB, 3.77 FIP, 4.16 xFIP, 3.4 WAR - Last three starts: 3 runs allowed in 22.1 innings
  • Alex Cobb: 8-8, 6.71 K/9, 2.47 BB/9, .314 BABIP, 65.9% LOB, 3.40 FIP, 3.62 xFIP, 2.0 WAR - Last three starts: 9 runs allowed in 18.2 innings

Advantage: FIP and xFIP continues to not like Matt Harrison and The Werewolf in the Living Room but he continues to go out there and throw seven or eight innings of two or three run ball with five Ks over FIP and xFIP like Alex Cobb but he has the ability to lay an egg like the start he had a little over a week ago in Anaheim.

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Tampa Bay Rays (70-57, 2nd Place AL East)

Rangers Record vs. Tampa Bay: 1-2 (All at The Ballpark)

Tampa Bay's Recent Results: 1-2 home series loss to the Oakland Athletics

Tampa Bay's Road Record: 35-27

Ballpark in Arlington Park Factors (LHB/RHB): HR: 119/118 - Runs: 117/115

SB Nation Rays Blog: DRaysBay

Match-up: (as of 08/27) Rangers Rays Advantage
Batting (RAR) 63.8 (4th) -12.6 (19th) Rangers
Base Running (RAR) 3.1 (12th) 6.1 (4th) Rays
Starters (RAR) 72.7 85.6 Rays
Bullpen (RAR) 46.1 (4th) 43.5 (5th) Rangers
Defense (UZR) 17.4 (8th) 5.3 (12th) Rangers
Overall (UZR + RAR) 203.1 127.9 Rangers

Questions to Answer:

  • What's your favorite Rangers vs. Rays October moment? (It's gotta be Cliff Lee in Game 5 or Ian Kinsler's skip, right?)
  • Who is your Return of the McLemore Approved Player to Watch in this series? (I'm thinking Nelson Cruz pretends it is already October and goes off on the Rays.)
  • Over/Under: 5.5 strike outs collected by Matt Harrison in his start on Wednesday?
  • What's your guess for line (IP/H/K/BB/ER) by Yu Darvish on Tuesday night as he returns from missing a start due to quad tightness?
  • Is it okay to still be mad at Andy Sonnanstine or should Andy Sonnanstine only be mad at us?
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