Rangers host Rays in ALDS rematch
The Texas Rangers eye a third straight win this evening when they start a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Texas, of course, took out the Rays in five games of last year's American League Division Series on its way to a second straight World Series appearance. This series is also the third in a row for the Rangers against a playoff team from last season.
"This is the American League, every team is going to be tough," Rangers designated hitter Michael Young said. "We just have to focus on getting better every day. Right now, our pitching is what's gotten us off to such a good start. They just keep us in the game every night."
Texas has come through the first two series of this rough stretch unscathed, as it has gone 5-2 versus the Detroit Tigers and Yankees, most recently taking two of three from New York, including a 7-3 win on Wednesday.
Adrian Beltre hit a solo homer and drove in three in that one, while Mike Napoli and Mitch Moreland also hit solo home runs for Texas, which is an impressive 15-4 on the year.
Scott Feldman, making his first start of the season, allowed two runs on six hits over 3 1/3 innings and reliever Robbie Ross (4-0) tossed 2 2/3 scoreless frames for the win.
"He has been tremendous," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Ross. "We brought him in tonight and we needed him to give us exactly what he gave us."
Tonight, Texas turns to unbeaten Matt Harrison, who is 3-0 with a 1.66 ERA on the year. Harrison beat the Tigers on Saturday, holding them to three runs and six hits in 7 2/3 innings. He had allowed just one run through his first 14 innings.
Harrison has faced the Rays four times (one start) and is 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA.
Tampa, meanwhile, will counter with a pitcher of its own who has yet to taste defeat in James Shields. The righty beat the Minnesota Twins on Saturday to improve to 3-0, as he allowed a run and vie hits in eight innings to lower his ERA to 2.76.
Shields has worked eight innings or more 18 times in his last 34 starts (dating back to April 19, 2011), the most in the majors during that span, including each of his last three starts -- one shy of the club record he matched last Aug. 26-Sept. 11. Albie Lopez first did it from Sept. 20, 2000- April 3, 2001.
"I'll tell you what, they've gotten off to a hot start, for sure," Shields said. "That's one team you just can't take lightly. You've got to go out there and pitch your game, stay aggressive and really make your pitches. If you make mistakes, they're going to hit you."
The Rays have won 12 of his last 15 regular-season starts, dating back to Aug. 3 of last season.
Shields, though, was hit hard by the Rangers in Game 2 of last year's division series in Texas and was the loser in Game 2 of the 2010 playoffs. However, he is 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA in the past three regular-season starts against the Rangers.
Tampa enters tonight's tilt on the heels of a thrilling win on Thursday, as Brandon Allen's pinch-hit, two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning propelled the Rays to a 4-3 victory over the Angels to complete a three-game sweep.
"He was calm on the bench, ready for his at-bat, saw his pitch and did not miss it," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Matt Joyce added two hits and an RBI, while Brandon Gomes (1-1) earned the win by tossing a perfect top of the ninth inning as the Rays recorded their fifth straight victory.
Tampa hasn't won six straight since a seven-game run July 24-30, 2010.
Texas won five of its nine regular season matchups with the Rays last season.