The Tampa Bay Rays try to pad their lead atop the wild card standings on Thursday when they go after a series win in the finale of a four- game set with the Texas Rangers at Tropicana Field.
That, though, may be easier said than done for the Rays, as they will go up against right-hander Yu Darvish, who is 12-9 on the year with a 2.79 ERA, but leads the majors with 256 strikeouts. Darvish gave up just one run and struck out 10 on Saturday against Oakland, but lost his fourth straight start, as the Rangers failed to score a run for him for the second straight time.
"There is only so much you can do as an individual player," said Darvish, who is coming off a pair of 1-0 defeats. "I just have to go out there and throw my pitches and pitch my game and do what I can to help the team."
Tampa, however, will throw an equally impressive hurler of its own in lefty Matt Moore, who is 15-3 with a 3.11 ERA. Moore has been incredible in three starts since returning from the disabled list, pitching to a 0.61 ERA in those outings.
Of course, as a 22-year-old back in the 2011 ALDS Moore stymied Texas' lineup over seven scoreless innings. He didn't allow a run against the Rangers over 5 1/3 innings back on April 10 either, but walked six batters.
Tampa needed extra innings to gain sole possession of first place in the wild card chase on Wednesday, as Desmond Jennings' 12th-inning single gave the Rays a 4-3 win.
The Rays had tied the game an inning earlier after another mistake allowed the Rangers to take a 3-2 lead in the top of 11th.
Elvis Andrus never stepped off the gas as he scored from first base on Adrian Beltre's two-out single to the gap in right-center field. Tampa Bay rookie right fielder Wil Myers appeared to be caught off guard, not thinking Andrus would attempt to score, and leisurely lobbed the ball to the cutoff man.
"I should have been more aware of the situation and who was running," Myers said. "I should have charged the ball with more aggressiveness. It's one of those things you learn from and don't let happen again."
Myers was taken off the hook as the Rays rallied in the home 11th. Texas closer Joe Nathan retired the first two batters before walking Matt Joyce. Pinch-runner Freddy Guzman then stole second and scored on David DeJesus' single up the middle.
After Brandon Gomes (2-1) struck out Ian Kinsler with runners on second and third in the top of the 12th, Jose Lobaton greeted Joseph Ortiz (2-2) with a base hit. After a sacrifice bunt by Yunel Escobar, pinch-runner Sam Fuld scored on Jennings' liner to right.
"We still have 11 games left, and right now, we're still in the postseason," said Nathan about the tough loss. "We still have plenty of baseball to go."
The Rangers, who have lost eight of nine overall, remained a half-game ahead of Cleveland for the second wild card spot.
Texas has split its six matchups with the Rays this season.