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ALDS Preview: Rangers vs. Rays

Oct 5, 2010, 5:27 PM EDT

I don't care what the records say: I think this series is pretty darn even.

Here at HardballTalk we pride ourselves on writing dozens of posts a
day obsessing on every single little thing possible. We’re told,
however, that some of you have lives and thus not all of you are able to
read dozens of posts a day obsessing on every single little thing
possible.  That’s a shame, but for that reason, we’ve put together a few
previews covering the broad strokes of each of the four Division Series
matchups, which will pop up between now and first pitch on Wednesday
afternoon. Let’s begin, shall we?

The Matchup: Texas Rangers (90-72) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (96-66)

How’ve they been doing?
The Rangers were 16-14 over the last month or so. The Rays: 15-15. The Rangers did it without their best player in their lineup. The Rays: no such excuse, though they did play tougher competition.

Haven’t I seen you before?
The Rays won the season series 4-2. I wish I could reference some fun playoff history going back to the mid-70s with these two teams because that’s where my mind is these days, but alas, such is not the case.

Who’s pitching?
The Rangers will run out Cliff Lee, C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis and Tommy Hunter. The Rays counter with David Price, James “Shomer Shabbos” Sheids, Matt Garza and Wade Davis.  The Rangers almost certainly won’t go with a three-man rotation if things go sideways, because Cliff Lee has never ever done that, not even in the World Series last year when the Phillies had their backs up against the wall.

The storyline which doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things
but which TBS will nonetheless beat to death

The Rangers’ road record against the AL playoff teams. I thought this was clever a couple of days ago and I tweeted it around, but the more I think about it, the less I think it matters. The Rangers played all of three games in Tropicana Field. That series happened right after the Rangers played five games against the Red Sox and Yankees, two of which were extra innings affairs. It’s a talking point, and one I bet for which the TBS guys have already created a graphic for Game One, but I don’t know that it matters.

Honorable mention: we’re going to hear a lot about how Josh Hamilton was originally a Tampa Bay prospect before he went nuts with drugs and drink and wicked women and all of that. One little lapse a year ago aside, he’s been on the straight and narrow for more than three years now. It’s still a relevant part of his life, but I don’t think it’s that relevant a part of our consideration of him as a baseball player.

The storyline which actually does matter but about which TBS won’t spend a lot of time

I don’t want to feed what I sense to be fairly strong “no one respects us” sentiments from both the Rays and Rangers camps, but I really do think that these two teams have gotten less ink out of anyone in the postseason. This also means that the TV producers and announcers have read less about them, which means that we’re going to get a lot of cliche analysis. The Rays are the AL East team with so much pitching depth! The Ballpark at Arlington-Rangers will bash your brains out!  Never mind that the Rangers have demonstrably better pitching than the Rays and that, despite the low batting averages, the Rays are a better offensive team than the Rangers.

What’s gonna go down?
I know the Rays have the best record in the AL and the Rangers have the worst record of all of the playoff teams, but I see this series as even. Partially because, if they play at their best, the Rangers are better than a 90-win team, and they are healthier now than they’ve been for a while.  Partly because the Rays were a much better first half team than they were a second half team. Let’s be clear here: the AL East played a lot of “meh” baseball down the stretch, and the Rays were part of that.

Call it a hunch, but I think the Rangers are going to take this bad boy in five. Cliff Lee will eliminate the home field advantage in Game 1, and after that the Rangers’ deeper back of the rotation will take care of business.

  1. Giant Space Ants - Oct 5, 2010 at 5:44 PM

    “Never mind that the Rangers have demonstrably better pitching than the Rays and that, despite the low batting averages, the Rays are a better offensive team than the Rangers.”
    Thank you- totally right on both counts. Can’t wait for this series to start!

  2. Mr. Heyward - Oct 5, 2010 at 5:46 PM

    I’ll have to go Rays in 5. No reasoning, just a uneducated guess.

  3. Mr. Heyward - Oct 5, 2010 at 5:52 PM

    excuse me that’s “just AND uneducated guess.” why D? Deez nutz…I gotta go home.

  4. Utley's hair - Oct 5, 2010 at 5:59 PM

    Frenchie will be the tipping point.

  5. RichardInBigD - Oct 5, 2010 at 8:12 PM

    Astute observations, Mr. Calcaterra, but I think 4 rather than 5. My reasonaing? I had to choose between going to game 3 or game 4, and, given the Rangers history, I chose 3 because of the likelihood there would be no game 4. Hence, I now predict a win in 4. Story of my baseball life, since I left Queens for Texas in 1987.

  6. Buccofan - Oct 5, 2010 at 8:31 PM

    Rangers in five would work well for the networks, since they would be easier “prey” for the exalted and high-ratings Yankees (face The Bronx and bow). All they need is a little cooperation from the um–I mean Yankees.
    Personally, I hope for Twins/either team, because the networks would go nuts since they don’t 1,875,439 prepackaged pieces of storyline BS. What are they going to use for a default picture if they don’t have The Pretty Boys (Jeter and A-Roid) to show? What will they talk about if The Yankees are out of it?

  7. RichardInBigD - Oct 5, 2010 at 9:06 PM

    I’m sure Buck Martinez will find something absolutely worthless to jabber on about in the absolutely MOST ANNOYING VOICE in sports.

  8. Giant Space Ants - Oct 5, 2010 at 10:10 PM

    Did you know that Josh Hamilton used to be a Rays prospect? It’s true!

  9. APBA Guy - Oct 6, 2010 at 12:44 AM

    The American league teams all have the same basic problem going into the playoffs this year. They have value at #1 starter, but after that, the questions begin. This makes all the matchups near toss-ups, as predictions include some form of guess/hope that one Number 1 will be dominant over another. But much as I love the Rangers, the extra edge that Tampa brings is defense. And without Morneau the Twins are at a disadvantage at this level of competition. So Rays and Yankees in the ALDS.

  10. Cincy Sam - Oct 6, 2010 at 10:02 AM

    I don’t have a dog in this fight, however I predicted the Rangers to go all the way this year back in July. It may not happen now, but I still like their chances somewhat. I can’t hedge more than that. If the Rangers win the first game, they will win this series.

  11. Cincy Sam - Oct 6, 2010 at 10:05 AM

    Sorry to ruin your day APBA, but the Yanks are going down in the Twin cities. After that, who knows?

  12. raystb - Oct 6, 2010 at 12:28 PM

    You’re an ID10T Craig. Do your homework before you write. The Rays 2nd best hitter and arguably their best player, Evan Longoria, was out the last 10 games of the season. Do you think that had NO impact on their wins and loses at the end of the year? 15-15 could have been 20-10 or better with Longoria playing. COME ON!!! Think before you speak.

  13. Cincy Sam - Oct 6, 2010 at 2:52 PM

    Hello out there:
    I know it is early in the game, however, the Rangers are winning handily so far.
    Look out Yankees, here come the Rangers.

  14. Cincy Sam - Oct 6, 2010 at 2:58 PM

    Four to No in the 4th inning? How did this happen? Maybe Lee will fall apart later in the game, you think?

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