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ALDS prediction time: Rangers vs. Rays

9/30/2011

ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's the same two teams as last year's ALDS, though under much difference circumstances.

Tampa Bay pulled off an unprecedented feat, chasing down the Red Sox from 9 games back in September. But in the process, they were left unsure for a while on who would pitch Game 1 and couldn't line up the pitching staff the way they'd prefer.

The Rangers, meanwhile, are rested, healthy and ready. They kept winning games down the stretch, finishing with a 6-game winning streak to grab the homefield advantage in this ALDS over the Tigers.

The two teams played a tight season series, with the Rangers winning 5-4. But the Rays' lineup hit just .182 against Texas in 2011 as the Rangers pitching staff manuvered through the lineup pretty well.

Good pitching has allowed the Rays to make this incredible run and they'll be relying on it in this series. But the Rangers' starters have performed more consistently in the last few weeks and Texas has by far the deeper lineup. Washington knows how he wants to handle the late innings with a bullpen that was strengthened at the trade deadline.

Both teams have momentum, but the Rangers have been almost systematic in their pursuit of nailing down the AL West and winning the homefield. They pitched well, holding opponents to a .214 batting average in September, put up ridiculous offensive numbers and improved on defense. There's no reason to think they won't keep playing the same, solid game they have in this past month. Plus, C.J. Wilson can go twice if necessary.

I'll take the Rangers in 4 games.

Here are some other staff predictions: