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Series Preview: Texas Rangers @ Tampa Bay Rays - Extra Pulp

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Beginning with the 2008 season--when the Tampa Bay Rays arrived as a pennant-winning team and the Rangers began laying the groundwork for what was to come--through today, the Rangers have gone 5-10 at Tropicana Field. I should note that the Rangers have gone 5-10 at Tropicana Field beginning with the 2008 season through today during the months of April-September which comprises baseball's regular season. In October, baseball's postseason, the Rangers are 5-0 at Tropicana Field for all time and forever.

During this same 2008-now time period, the Rays have gone 10-14 in Arlington in the summer months but 3-1 at The Ballpark in October. That's a combined 15-24 record for the road team between these two teams in the regular season and 8-1 in the playoffs. Somehow all of this reversal of fortune in the roll of the dice that is postseason baseball has seen the Rangers come out on top in consecutive ALDS appearances against the Rays. I don't know how that could be explained in a way that isn't just postseason craziness but it is endlessly fascinating to me.

For a further example to the endlessness: David Price lost two games at Tropicana total in 2010 and lost consecutive games at home to the Rangers in the span of a week in the 2010 ALDS. Price lost twice total in the 2011 season at The Trop and lost his only game of the 2011 postseason at home to the Rangers last season. Heck, even Tommy Hunter was a perfect 7-0 in 2010 at The Ballpark before losing to the Rays at home in his ALDS Game 4 start. Though, no, it is not surprising that Tommy Hunter lost a playoff game. Anywhere.

In the five games the Rangers have won in Tampa in October, all in as many tries, there's the three against Price, and one each against James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson. This weekend the Rangers will face Hellickson, Price (it appears the Rays are worried about Price's shoulder and ability to defeat the Texas Rangers) and Shields. These games are at Tropicana. It is September. It is not October. It seems likely that the Rangers could lose some of these games. But then again, David Price has only lost twice at Tropicana this season...

(Editor's note: Almost none of this means even less than it didn't now. Price scratched for Saturday's game.)

(Editor's second note: Matt Harrison is also scratched from this series. What a pumpkin this became.)

Friday, September 7 6:10: RHP Jeremy Hellickson vs. LHP Derek Holland

Saturday, September 8 6:10: LHP David Price RHP Chris Archer vs. RHP Yu Darvish

Sunday, September 9 12:40: RHP James Shields vs. LHP Matt Harrison RHP Roy Oswalt

Here's a breakdown of the pitching match-ups against the suddenly third place Tampa Bay Rays:

  • Derek Holland: 10-6, 7.28 K/9, 2.68 BB/9, .258 BABIP, 65.7% LOB, 4.73 FIP, 4.20 xFIP, 1.4 WAR - Last three starts: 8 runs allowed in 20.0 innings
  • Jeremy Hellickson: 8-10, 5.76 K/9, 3.03 BB/9, .254 BABIP, 81.5% LOB, 4.98 FIP, 4.68 xFIP, 0.2 WAR - Last three starts: 7 runs allowed in 18.0 innings

Advantage: Derek Holland looking to continue the most consistent stretch of pitching he's likely put together all season over Jeremy Hellickson going through something of a sophomore slump after a Rookie of the Year 2011 campaign. One interesting note for these two underachieving pitchers is how much Holland's LOB rate is killing him this season while Hellickson's is saving his bacon.

  • Yu Darvish: 14-9, 10.47 K/9, 4.62 BB/9, .305 BABIP, 70.2% LOB, 3.55 FIP, 3.71 xFIP, 3.7 WAR - Last three starts: 6 runs allowed in 21.0 innings
  • David Price: 17-5, 8.72 K/9, 2.69 BB/9, .282 BABIP, 82.2% LOB, 3.21 FIP, 3.21 xFIP, 4.1 WAR - Last three starts: 8 runs allowed in 18.2 innings It's Chris Archer.

Advantage: I can't think of many other match-ups I'd rather watch than this one. Maybe Strasburg vs. Verlander or something nutty like that. Darvish vs. Price in September is about as fun as it gets on paper. Yu Darvish is almost completely luck-neutral as a pitcher. I find this interesting. He's not smoke and mirrors. If Darvish doesn't walk the world, he's an ace-level pitcher. David Price already does not walk the world. David Price already is an ace-level pitcher. I would favor David Price in this match-up given the single-game scenario and especially accounting for venue unless the Rangers can convince Price that it is October already. I believe I have heard of Chris Archer, yes.

  • Matt Harrison: 15-9, 5.48 K/9, 2.46 BB/9, .286 BABIP, 77.0% LOB, 3.96 FIP, 4.13 xFIP, 3.2 WAR - Last three starts: 10 runs allowed in 18.0 innings Roy Oswalt is pitching in this game.
  • James Shields: 13-8, 8.57 K/9, 2.46 BB/9, .303 BABIP, 69.8% LOB, 3.67 FIP, 3.41 xFIP, 3.2 WAR - Last three starts: 7 runs allowed in 22.2 innings

Advantage: James Shields was born to use his changeup to beat the Texas Rangers (in every month that is not October) over I really wanted to favor Matt Harrison in You Can't Scare Me! but the last time he faced the Rays he gave up the second most runs he's allowed all season and the most runs in a single start since May 2. It's Roy Oswalt now and Roy Oswalt is not going to be favored over James Shields, sorry.


Tampa Bay Rays (75-62, 3rd Place AL East)

Rangers Record vs. Tampa Bay: 3-3 (All at The Ballpark)

Tampa Bay's Recent Results: 2-1 home series win against the New York Yankees

Tampa Bay's Home Record: 37-31

Tropicana Field Park Factors (LHB/RHB): HR: 90/89 - Runs: 81/86

SB Nation Rays Blog: DRaysBay

Match-up: (as of 09/06) Rangers Rays Advantage
Batting (RAR) 71.2 (4th) -0.8 (14th) Rangers
Base Running (RAR) 5.3 (6th) 0.2 (12th) Rangers
Starters (RAR) 78.6 70.5 Rangers
Bullpen (RAR) 49.1 (5th) 48.5 (6th) Rangers
Defense (UZR) 23.5 (4th) 11.6 (11th) Rangers
Overall (UZR + RAR) 227.7 130.0 Rangers

Questions to Answer:

  • In a world where Charley Pride calls Dick Vitale a bandwagoner and Dick Vitale says country is history's worst genre of music, who would win in a fistfight between celebrity fans: Charley Pride or Dick Vitale?
  • Who is your Return of the McLemore Approved Player to Watch in this series? (You can't go wrong with Adrian Beltre these days, I reckon.)
  • Over/Under: 2.5 extra base hits collected by Michael Young in this series?
  • What's your guess for line (IP/H/K/BB/ER) by Matt Harrison in his third go at the Rays this season Roy Oswalt, I guess?
  • With the Rangers playing on turf, does Jurickson Profar spell a regular in this series?