TEXAS RANGERS (81-67)
at TAMPA BAY RAYS (81-67)
First pitch: Monday, 7:10 p.m. ET
Line: Tampa Bay -140, Texas +130, Total: 7.5
Tied for the AL Wild Card lead, the slumping Rangers and surging Rays will begin a four-game series Monday night in Tampa Bay that could have major implications on the playoff picture.
Once looking like they had a decent lead in the race, the Rangers have now lost six in a row and nine of their past 10 contests. Midseason acquisition and former Tampa Bay starter Matt Garza (9-5, 3.79 ERA) takes the hill for Texas in this one, looking to snap a four-start winless skid to give him a 3-4 record since joining Texas. Facing him will be Alex Cobb (8-3, 3.08 ERA), who also has also gone four starts without a win despite pitching respectably. Before Sunday's loss, the Rays had won three in a row. The Rangers are 14-11 against the Rays over the last three years, including 6-5 at Tropicana Field. Earlier this season, the Rangers took two of three from the Rays in Arlington. The clubs have met three times this season with Texas taking two-of-three at home in early April. The Rangers have actually been better on the road in 2013 with a 42-32 mark (.568, best in majors) compared to a 39-35 record at home. The Rays, though, are a dominant home team at 45-28 (.616, 8th in MLB).
Garza (1.18 WHIP) has given up nine runs (eight earned) over 11 innings in his past two starts. He is limiting opponents to a .243 BA in 2013 with 125 strikeouts and only 37 walks in 137.2 innings, though he has been worse since he joined the AL with a 4.46 ERA in 10 starts. Like the Rangers as a whole, he has been better on the road in 2013 with a 3.44 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. Having pitched for the Rays from 2008-2010, he has thoroughly enjoyed pitching a Tropicana Field where he is 20-10 with a 3.21 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in more than 300 innings. But this will be Garza’s first time facing his former team. The only three members of the lineup with at least 10 ABs against Garza is OF David DeJesus (6-for-20, 3 RBI), DH Luke Scott (4-for-16, 7 K's) and C Jose Molina (0-for-12, 2 K's). The Texas bullpen has been solid all year long with a 30-15 record, 3.04 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. On the road, the unit has converted a phenomenal 26-of-28 save chances (93%).
Cobb (1.22 WHIP) has been the victim of poor run support lately with the Rays scoring just 10 runs over his past four starts. Though he has 40 walks with 108 strikeouts in 120 innings this year, he has succeeded in keeping runners off the paths with a .237 opposing batting average. Cobb has yet to earn a loss at home in 2013 with a 5-0 record, 3.09 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. In two career starts against the Rangers he has yet to record a decision but the Rays won both times while he racked up a hefty 4.91 ERA and 1.55 WHIP. No batter in the Texas lineup has more than six career at-bats against Cobb, as 2B Ian Kinsler and 3B Adrian Beltre are both 1-for-6 versus the right-hander. The Tampa Bay bullpen has been strong all year with a 3.73 ERA and 1.22 WHIP, but it has been even better at home with a 3.02 ERA.