Monday, September 30, 2013
Top stats to know: Rays vs Rangers
By Mark Simon
This year’s regular season has an extra day, with the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays meeting in a one-game tiebreaker to determine the second Wild Card spot.
Here are half a dozen statistical storylines related to this matchup.
The home team has a good recent history
Since 1995, there have been six one-game tiebreakers. The home team has won five of the six, including the last three, with the only road win being by the 1999 Mets against the Reds.
Rays closer Fernando Rodney had direct involvement in the last one, allowing the walk-off hit to Alexi Casilla as the Twins defeated the Tigers 6-5 in a one-game tiebreaker that decided the 2009 AL Central title.
David Price struggles against the Rangers
The Rays will start last year’s Cy Young Award winner, David Price. His history against the Rangers is rough—1-4 with a 5.98 ERA in eight regular-season starts, 0-3 with a 4.66 ERA in three postseason starts.
In four starts at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Price has allowed 19 earned runs and 25 hits in 16 2/3 innings.
Price has had trouble figuring out how to get the Rangers righties out. As the chart on the right notes, they have good numbers against both his fastball and his offspeed stuff.
Price’s situation is similar to that of Joe Saunders, who faced the Rangers in Texas in the Wild Card round last season. Saunders entered that start 3-7 career against the Rangers and 0-6 in Arlington, but got the win for the Baltimore Orioles over Yu Darvish to advance to the ALDS.
Nelson Cruz returns
The Rangers will have Nelson Cruz available if they wish to use him. Cruz has not played since August 4 after accepting his 50-game PED-related suspension.
Cruz is an appealing option because of how well he hits lefties. He has a .317 batting average, .387 on-base percentage and .578 slugging percentage versus left-handed pitching over the last four seasons and is hitting .290 with five home runs in 100 at-bats against southpaws in 2013.
Combining regular season and postseason, Cruz is 9-for-21 with three home runs against Price. He homered against Price the last time they met—in a 6-5 win for the Rangers on Aug. 27, 2012.
Matchup to watch: Wil Myers vs Martin Perez
Two of the top candidates for AL Rookie of the Year will go head-to-head when Rays outfielder Wil Myers faces Rangers starter Martin Perez.
Myers was the Rays top hitter in September, hitting .317 with four home runs, 13 doubles and 14 RBI, including 2-for-4 in the season finale on Sunday.
Myers had a .299 batting average and .388 on-base percentage against left-handed pitching this season. His success came as the result of spraying line drives at a high rate (20 of the 72 balls he put into play, 28 percent).
Perez had trouble with right-handed hitters in the final month of the season, when they hit .317 against him, though eight of those hits against him were infield hits. Perez profiles as a hittable pitcher, but he’s managed to limit damage with men on base, yielding only one home run with men on base in his 19 starts.
Impact defender: Craig Gentry
Both these teams have good defenders in their infield, most notably Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler and Evan Longoria. The Rangers have a difference-making defender in the outfield in Craig Gentry.
Gentry has 26 Defensive Runs Saved in the outfield over the last two seasons, but has done so in only 1,284 innings. Gentry has the third-best Runs Saved per 1,200 innings total among outfielders in that span, trailing only Gerardo Parra and Lorenzo Cain.
Rays have a deep bench
Since this is a regular-season game, each team will be working from up to a 40-man roster.
For the Rays, that means that Jake Odorizzi could play a key role if either Price struggles, or the team uses up its bullpen in a close game. Odorizzi has made a pair of relief stints of at least three innings in the last 10 days and was unscored upon in each.
Joe Maddon will also have Freddy Guzman available as a pinch-runner. Guzman has appeared in one game this season. He pinch-ran in the 11th inning stole a base and scored the tying run in a win over the Rangers on September 18. Guzman stole 73 bases in the Mexican League this season.