Friday, April 27, 2012
W2W4: Hot Rangers meet streaking Rays
By Richard Durrett
This weekend's three-game series should be a good one between two of the hottest teams in the majors. The Rangers are 15-4, which is the top record in the big leagues. Tampa Bay has won five straight, including a sweep of the Los Angeles Angels, and are 12-7. That's tied with Baltimore for the lead in the AL East. A few things to watch this weekend:
* Pitching. The Rangers' rotation has an AL-best 2.83 ERA, but the Rays aren't far behind. Tampa Bay has a 3.33 ERA and its 10 wins are just one behind Texas. The Rays are tied for the second-lowest opponent batting average at .231 (Texas is at .233). So you're talking about two teams who can pitch. Should be interesting.
* The Rays can hit? Yes, they can. At least so far. While the starting rotation has improved recently for the Rays, the bats have done enough damage to help them navigate a tough early schedule. Tampa Bay is fourth in the league in runs scored. Sure, that's not Rangers' territory, but it's solid.
* Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce are worth keeping an eye on. Longoria is hitting .309 and has a .427 on-base percentage. Joyce is hitting .322. Both are driving in key runs in clutch situations.
* As for the Rangers, there are plenty of players trending in the right direction. Josh Hamilton is having an MVP-type season so far. But he hasn't hit well against James Shields, the Rays' starter tonight. Hamilton is just 2-for-16 with six strikeouts against him.
* ESPN Sunday Night Baseball sure should be fun with David Price going up against Derek Holland.
* After a slow start, Mike Napoli is starting to show some power. He has seven home runs -- one behind Hamilton for the team lead -- and 14 RBIs.
* We've talked a lot recently about Elvis Andrus' defense. But he's getting his swing going now too. Four of his last nine games have been multi-hit games and he's executed some important sacrifice bunts.