Tampa Bay Rays v. Texas Rangers
This rematch of their ALDS last year has Tampa Bay thinking revenge and Texas believing it has unfinished business. Last year, the Rangers defeated the favored Rays in a five-game series in which the visiting team won all five. Cliff Lee, no longer with Texas, won Games 1 and 5. C.J. Wilson, who was the winner in the Rangersâ Game 2 two-hit shutout last season, is now the ace. He tossed a shutout on Sept. 6 at Tampa Bay when he allowed just five singles and three walks and induced four double plays. Thereâs no doubt the Rays have the best manager in the postseason, but do they have the best players? Texas didnât experience the drama that the Rays did over the past week, but the Rangers were winning pressure-packed games in order to gain home-field advantage and to avoid playing the Yankees in the first round. That provided a reminder of what postseason baseball feels like.
Key for Tampa Bay
Last year the Rangers held Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford to a combined .177 average. Longoria is still the most feared bat, but the Rays must provide protection for him in the lineup. Few managers use their entire rosters as well as Maddon. Heâll need contributions from bench players.
Key for Texas
The Rangers acquired relievers Mike Adams, Koji Uehara and Mike Gonzalez during the season with the postseason in mind. Being able to create favorable matchups and shorten games gives Texas a decided advantage.
Rays to Watch
If Upton and Ben Zobrist are able to create some offense around Longoria, the Rays can score enough runs to win.
Ranger to Watch
Neftali Feliz showed signs of fatigue during the season. But he threw on back-to-back days just twice in September, converting all six save opps.